Resolution statement 01137-17 Royal Albert Hall v The Sunday Telegraph

    • Date complaint received

      29th June 2017

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Resolution Statement 01137-17 Royal Albert Hall v The Sunday Telegraph

Summary of complaint  

1. The Royal Albert Hall and its governing Council complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Sunday Telegraph breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in a number of articles headlined:

1.    “After the scandals we need to win back public trust and charities” published online on 31 December 2016;

2.    “We need a charities’ tax to win back public trust, says Charity Commission boss”, published online on 31 December 2016.

3.    “After the scandals we need to win back public trust in charities” by Christopher Hope published in print on Sunday 1 January 2017;

4.    “Live aid promotor Harvey Goldsmith furious as Royal Albert Hall allows its members to resell tickets for Dave Gilmour concert” published online on 7 January 2017;

5.    “The producer, The Royal Albert Hall and a drama over rock tickets” published in print on Sunday 8 January 2017;

6.    “Yours for £2.5M: the first Royal Albert Hall box to go on sale for a decade” by Christopher Hope published online in the Telegraph on Monday 9 January 2017;

7.    “Albert Hall box going for a song at £2.5m” by Christopher Hope published in print on 10 January 2017;

8.    “Row over sale of Earl Spencer’s Royal Albert Hall charity concert tickets” published online on 14 January 2017;

9.    “Unfair sales”, published in print on 22 January;

10. “Ticket resale committee to question Albert Hall boss”, published online on 30 January 2017. 

2. The series of articles, starting with an interview with the Chairman of the Charity Commission, reported on criticism that the complainants were enabling their Members to sell on tickets, which are issued in respect of seats they own at the Hall, for profit. The complainants said that the series of articles had inaccurately reported that they “allow” their Members to “make large profits from selling their seats”. The complainants said that Members' seats are their own private property, arising from the funding of the Hall’s construction (completed in 1871), and do not form part of the Hall’s charitable assets. and in those circumstances, the complainants have no power to allow or disallow how Members use or dispose of their tickets. 

3. The complainants were also concerned that the fourth and fifth articles had inaccurately reported that “The Royal Albert Hall is involved in a bitter dispute with Harvey Goldsmith, the producer of Live Aid, after the charity that owns the venue allowed debenture holders to circumvent a ban on the reselling of tickets”. It said that, given that the tickets are Members’ own private property, they could not impose a ban on the reselling of tickets. 

4. The complainants further said that the first, second and third articles had inaccurately reported that the Charity Commission had given them until May to “put [their] house in order or face a formal inquiry”. The complainants said that this inaccurately suggested that the Corporation suspected them of being guilty of serious breaches of charity law, when in fact no such deadline had been set, and the Commission had not threatened or undertaken any formal action against them. 

5. The newspaper said that the articles made clear that the criticism of the complainants for “allowing” the ticket resales, was based upon its inaction in preventing their Members to sell on their tickets for large profits. It said that a range of options were open to the complainant, in order to discourage Members from reselling tickets, including, but not limited to, asking them to desist. 

6. The newspaper said that the fourth and fifth articles had accurately reported Mr Goldsmith’s concern regarding the re-selling of tickets at concerts he was promoting. The newspaper said that an email sent to all Members had made clear that the conditions of sale, imposed by him in relation to the reselling of tickets, did not apply to them and therefore had made clear to them that the ban could be circumvented. 

7. It said that the first, second and third articles had accurately reflected the position of the Charity Commission. It said that the Commission had told the newspaper that “all the Commission’s regulatory options remain open should [the issue of private benefit of tickets] not be dealt with properly” at the complainant’s Board’s internal governance review, which was to be completed in May 2017. It said that, given the clear statement from the Commission, it was not inaccurate to report that the complainant could face a formal inquiry. 

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. 

Mediated outcome 

6. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter. 

7. During IPSO’s investigation of the complaint, the newspaper offered to publish the following correction, in print and online, linked to the original articles: 

Royal Albert Hall

In 10 print and online articles about the Royal Albert Hall published in Dec and Jan, we said that the Hall "allowed" its private seat holders (or Members) to profit from selling their seats at pop concerts and events. The Hall has asked us to point out - and we accept - that Members' seats are their private property and the Hall has no power to allow or disallow how they use or dispose of their tickets. We also quoted from an email from the Hall to its Members discussing arrangements for the Sept 2015 David Gilmour concerts. The email noted that a ban on secondary ticket sales agreed with the promoters did not apply to Members. The email was not an attempt to "circumvent" the ban, as we suggested. The Members were never subject to any ban and the Hall was not in breach of any agreement with the promoters. We are happy to make all this clear and apologise for our suggestions to the contrary. 

It also offered to publish an article, written by the President of the Hall, to be published in the 'Review' section of the print edition, as well as online, under the headline “The Royal Albert Hall:  A Victorian Institution fit for the 21st century”. 

8. The complainants said these steps would resolve the complaint to their 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: 10/02/2017

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 11/05/2017