Decision of the Complaints Committee 16327-17 Whittle v express.co.uk
Summary of complaint
1. Martin Whittle complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that express.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in relation an article headlined “Pound to euro exchange rate: Sterling SOARS on eve of general election vote”, published on 7 June 2017.
2. The article, published at 07:38am, reported on the pound to euro exchange rate preceding the UK General Election which took place on 8 June 2017. It said that sterling has “climbed back overnight against the euro as the UK enters the last day before the general election vote”, reporting that it had “jumped back up to €1.15 after falling to €1.14 as recently as yesterday”.
3. The complainant said that the pound to euro exchange rate had not risen to above €1.15, prior to the article’s publication. In support of this, the complainant referred to an article published at 15:52 on 7 June; this later article had also reported on the pound to euro exchange rate that day and had contained a graph which had showed that the rate did not go over 1.15 before 7:38am. The complainant also said that it was misleading to characterise the rises which had occurred in the rate at that time, as “soaring”.
4. The publication said that the journalist had relied upon a graph which it had obtained from a recognised source of currency rate information, xe.com. It said that given the passage of time, it was unable to obtain access to the graph which the journalist had seen, and which would show the fluctuating exchange rate throughout 7 June.
5. Upon receipt of the complaint, the publication provided a further graph from the same source which had been used by the journalist. The publication said that this graph showed that, at some point between 00.01am on 7 June and well before midday on 7 June, the rate rose above 1.150; however, it accepted that the rate rose to 1.1465 in the overnight period between 6 and 7 June 2017.
6. In an attempt to resolve the complaint, the newspaper removed the article, and published the following correction:
On 7 June 2017 we published an article headlined “Pound to euro exchange rate: Sterling SOARS on eve of general election vote”, which reported that the GBP had “jumped back up to €1.15 after falling to €1.14”. We based that information from a graph sourced from XE.com, which provides exchange rate information. In fact, while we had relied on XE.com it now transpires that rate did not go above €1.15 as reported in the article, in the overnight period between 6 and 7 June 2017. We accept that the rate information contained within the text of the article was inaccurate, based upon information supplied by Bloomberg in fact the overnight rate between 6 and 7 June 2017 rose to 1.1465 not 1.15. We apologise for this inaccuracy and the original article has been deleted. In fact, the GBP to Euro rate opened on 07 June at 1.145 and closed at 1.1514 an increase of 0.63%.
7. The complainant did not accept the publication’s offer of resolution, nor did he accept that the graph which the publication had provided upon receipt of his complaint, supported the accuracy of the article. He said that this graph did not specify the time on its horizontal axis and noted that the graph had plotted two straight lines, rather than a fluctuating exchange rate.
Relevant Code provisions
8. 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
9. The article had claimed that, prior to 07:38 am on 7 June 2017, the pound to euro exchange rate had risen to above €1.15: the Committee wished to emphasise that it was the responsibility of the publication to demonstrate the care it had taken over the accuracy of this claim.
10. The publication had been unable to provide the Committee with the graph which had formed the basis for the article’s central claim that before 07:38 on 7 June 2017, the pound to euro exchange rate had risen to above 1.150.
11. Upon receipt of the complaint the publication had provided a further graph which had showed that, at some point on 7 June, the rate rose above 1.150. While the Committee had no reason to doubt the accuracy of this graph, the Committee were unable to assess the accuracy of the article on the basis of it. Further the publication had accepted that the rate did not go above 1.150 in the overnight period between 6 and 7 June 2017. This represented a failure to take care not to publish inaccurate information in breach of Clause 1(i). Fluctuations in currency exchange rate information, while small, have a significant impact on the market, further, the claim that the exchange rate had risen to above €1.15 was significant in the context of the article. The article’s central claim required correction under Clause 1 (ii).
12. It was not in dispute that the exchange rate had risen in the overnight period between 6 and 7 June. In those circumstances, the Committee did not consider that the article’s characterisation of this increase as “soaring”, was significantly misleading. There was no further breach of the Code.
13. The complaint was upheld.
Remedial action required
14. Having upheld the complaint, the Committee considered what remedial action should be required. The publication had promptly offered a correction, which had appeared on its homepage. This had identified the inaccuracy and set out the correct position. While carefully considering all the circumstances, on balance, the Committee considered that this action was sufficient to meet the requirements of Clause 1 (ii) and no further action was required.
Date complaint received: 26/06/2017
Date decision issued: 08/11/2017
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