Resolution Statement 08404-19 RSPCA v dailymail.co.uk
Summary of Complaint
1. The RSPCA complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the dailymail.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “CORRUPTION OF KINDNESS” published on 29 June 2019.
2. The article reported on the influence of vegan activists on the governance of the RSPCA. It gave an example of the vice-chair of the organisation, who was separately responsible for several high profile vegan and animal rights campaigns. The article examined whether this person, and other named campaigners, could influence the priorities and direction of the RSPCA, and suggested that the RSPCA may be considering calling for a ban on angling and horse racing. It explained that such a direction would contrast with the previous priorities of the RSPCA. It said that there were concerns that the influence of these people was growing. It also explained that there was an upcoming vote to cut the number of people on the organisation’s governing council, which it said was significant because regional representatives would no longer be included on the council.
3. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy). It said that several of the campaigners named as being able to influence the RSPCA would not be able to be elected to the council under the new rules. It also said that it was inaccurate to report that the RSPCA was devoting resources to banning angling and horse racing, and that the RSPCA’s press office had made this clear to the newspaper prior to publication. The complainant also said that omitting quotes provided by the press office and the Charity Commission meant that the article was unbalanced and therefore misleading. It also said that the newspaper had failed to give the charity a right of reply.
4. The publication did not accept that the article breached the Code and said that the complainant had failed to identify any significant inaccuracies. It was not the case that simply being “unbalanced” constituted a breach of Clause 1. It said that it had attempted to resolve the matter directly with the complainant some months prior to them contacting IPSO.
Relevant Code 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.
6. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
7. During the course of IPSO’s investigation, the publication offered to remove the online article.
8. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to its satisfaction.
9. As the complaint was successfully mediated, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.
Date complaint received: 30/10/2019
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 13/02/2020