Resolution Statement 04362-18 Virgin Trains v Yorkshire Evening Post
Summary of complaint
1.Virgin Trains complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Yorkshire Evening Post breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Don’t stop with LNER, nationalise the lot”, published on 26 June 2018.
2.The article, which was billed as an “open letter” from a trade union official to the Transport Secretary, described the writer’s views on the handover of the Virgin Trains East Coast franchise to the government. It said that “Virgin and [another company] have now pocketed the profits and skipped out of paying the Government £2.2bn in premiums”.
3.The complainant said that the article was inaccurate because, in fact, Virgin Trains and the other company have not taken any profits from the East Coast franchise, but had lost more than £200m as a result of their investments. In addition, it said that the article inaccurately suggested that Virgin Trains had reneged on its contractual obligations, when in fact it had fully met its contractual obligations, including in relation to premium payments.
4.The publication denied that it had breached the Code. It said that IPSO had previously stated that “it is neither reasonable nor desirable to expect editors to verify every fact contained in published letters”, and said that the letter was a reflection of its writer’s views, which reflected other media coverage on the matter. The publication also noted that the other company had made profits for a period of the franchise. It offered to publish a right of reply from the complainant, setting out its position in relation to the letter’s claims.
5.The complainant said that a right of reply or letter was not an appropriate remedy when the article contained an error of fact.
Relevant Code provisions
6. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.
7.The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
8.Following IPSO’s involvement, the publication offered to publish the following clarification, in print and online:
On 26th June, The Yorkshire Post published an open letter to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, signed by Bill Adams, Regional Secretary, TUC Yorkshire & the Humber.
In that letter Mr Adams suggested that shareholders Stagecoach and Virgin “pocketed the profits” from the Virgin Trains East Coast franchise. Virgin Trains has asked that we make clear neither company made a penny of profit from the franchise but lost more than £200m.
9.The complainant said this resolved the matter to its satisfaction.
10.As the complaint had been mediated successfully, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.
Date complaint received: 10/07/2018.
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 21/08/2018
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