Decision of the Complaints Committee 06173-18 Keane v The Scotsman
Summary of Complaint
1. Gordon Keane complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Scotsman breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Peat’s selective memory of 2008 is what really sticks in the throat” published on 19 September 2018.
2. The article was a comment piece discussing the legacy of the 2007-08 Scottish football season. It said that “The 2007-08 season is the only one in the history of Scottish football to be extended over the inability of one club to fulfil its fixtures”.
3. The article was also published online in the same format with the headline “George Peat’s selective memory really sticks in throat”.
4. The complainant said that the statement about the 2007-08 season was incorrect. He provided examples which showed that the Scottish football league had been extended many times over its history, often as a result of one club being able to fulfil its fixtures. He also rejected the idea that this year was in any way unique, as every season has its own distinguishing features which make it different from the others.
5. The publication accepted that the statement was inaccurate, but said that the article’s inaccuracy was as a result of a failure to be sufficiently clear about the circumstances which made the changes to the league schedule unique, and that it was widely reported that the steps taken by the Scottish Football Association in 2007-08 were unprecedented. It said that the author had consulted a respected football prior to publication website to confirm that there was no historic precedent for what happened in the 2007-08 season.
6. The publication said that the author was entitled to publish his view that the season in question was unique. However, it offered to remove the statement from the online article, as well as offering to publish the following correction on page two in its Corrections and Clarifications column, and underneath the online article:
“Andrew Smith's column of 19 September, 2018, entitled Peat's selective memory of 2008 is what really sticks in the throat, stated that 2007-8 was the only season in the history of Scottish football to be extended over the inability of one club to fulfil its fixtures. In fact, the season has been extended on other occasions in order to accommodate one team's fixture backlog. The 2007/08 season was different in that a full set of three fixtures for the top six group were rescheduled beyond the planned end of the season for this reason. We are happy to set the record straight”.
Relevant Code Provisions
7. 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.
iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.
iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
Findings of the Committee
8. It was accepted that the 2007-08 was not the only one in which the season had been extended due to the inability of one club to fulfil its fixtures. Whilst the author was entitled to publish his view that the season was unique, the assertion represented a failure to take care over the accuracy of the article, in breach of Clause 1(i). The statement failed to take into account the other similar occasions that the league season had been extended, which represented a significant inaccuracy in the context of an article which centred around the comparing the 2007/08 league to previous years. It thus required correction under the terms of Clause 1(ii).
9. The correction offered by the publication identified the inaccuracy and set out the correct position, and was offered promptly and with due prominence. The Committee also noted that the publication had offered to remove the statement from the online version. There was no breach of Clause 1 (ii).
10. The complaint was upheld.
Remedial action required
11. Having upheld the complaint, the Committee considered what remedial action should be required.
12. The newspaper had promptly offered a correction which corrected the inaccuracy with due prominence. The Committee found that this correction was sufficient to meet the requirements of Clause 1 (ii) and should now be published.
Date complaint received: 19/09/2018
Date decision issued: 29/11/2018Back to ruling listing