Findings of the Complaints Committee 07495-20 Forth v The Daily Telegraph
Summary of Complaint
1. Chris Forth complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Daily Telegraph breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Seven out of 10 who get virus never have symptoms”, published on 29 May 2020.
2. The article reported on the easing of lockdown restrictions, as well as providing an overview of coronavirus in the UK. The article reported that “ONS testing suggests that between May 11 and May 24 an average of 133,000 people had coronavirus at any given time. The number of new infections is currently 54,000 a week”. A subheading of the article was also “ONS survey”.
3. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 as figures reported by the World Health Organisation showed that in the week of 24 May there were 257,158 confirmed cases, and on 31 May (one week later) there were 272,830 confirmed cases, which was an increase of 15,672 in the week. The complainant said it was misleading that the figures in the article were not referred to as “estimated”.
4. The publication did not accept a breach of the Code. It said that it was clear the article was reporting on the results of ONS testing, rather than the daily COVID-19 cases given by the government or WHO. It referenced a report dated 28 May from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) which reported that “There were an estimated average of 54,000 new COVID-19 infections per week in England”.
Relevant Clause Provisions
5. 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.
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
6. It was clear that the article was reporting on ONS statistics as it referred to these statistics throughout the article, as well as including it as a subheading, and had accurately reported the information shared by the ONS. As these figures were clearly reported as part of the survey, it was not misleading to not report that they were estimated. Where the article had presented the figures as deriving from the ONS, and accurately reported these figures, it had taken care not to publish inaccurate information, and there was no breach of Clause 1.
7. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial action required
Date complaint received: 02/06/2020
Date decision issued: 17/11/2020
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