Resolution Statement – 28060-20 Sturt v Mail Online
Summary of Complaint
1. Chris Sturt complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “'Defund the BBC' campaigners raise £60,000 in donations towards bid to decriminalise non-payment of TV licence in wake of fury over corporation's 'rich list'” published on 17 September 2020.
2. The article reported on a campaign group which had raised money in a bid to decriminalise non-payment of the TV license. It described the group as “anti-BBC” and “a right-wing group founded by Brexiteers”.
3. The complainant said that it was inaccurate to describe the organisation as a “right-wing group”. He said that even if its founders held right-wing views, this did not extend to the group itself, which had non-political aims. He said that it attracted support from across the political spectrum.
4. The newspaper did not accept that the description was significantly misleading. It said that the founders of the group had variously written for right-wing websites, worked for the Brexit party, founded a pro-Brexit group, and had expressed right-wing sentiments. It said that where key individuals in the group had right-wing credentials and connections, it was reasonable to refer to the group as being right-wing. It said that the article made no claim about the politics of those who may support the group.
Relevant Code Provisions
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.
5. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
6. During IPSO’s investigation, the publication offered to remove all references to the group being “right-wing” and to publish the following footnote:
“A previous version of this article referred to “Defund the BBC” as a right-wing group. The organisation has posted on Twitter that they are composed of “ordinary people from the left and right” which we are happy to make clear.”
7. The complainant said that this would resolve his complaint.
8. 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: 17/09/2020
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 27/11/2020Back to ruling listing