Ruling

01791-21 Brewerton v dailyrecord.co.uk

    • Date complaint received

      3rd March 2022

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 10 Clandestine devices and subterfuge, 2 Privacy, 3 Harassment, 4 Intrusion into grief or shock

Decision of the Complaints Committee – 01791-21 Brewerton v dailyrecord.co.uk

Summary of Complaint

1. Keith Brewerton, acting on his own behalf and on behalf of his son Aled Brewerton, complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that dailyrecord.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 3 (Harassment), Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock) and Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Viral council Zoom star Jackie Weaver is a Scot and says chaotic meeting would never have gone so far here”, published on 12 February 2021.

2. The article, which appeared online only, reported on the response to a parish council meeting which had a few earlier days ‘gone viral’, and had been widely covered by the press. The article was predominantly based on the comments of one of the meeting participants, and included a thirty-second clip of the meeting.

3. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1. He first said that the video of the meeting included with the article had been altered, with sequences changed and interactions omitted. He said that these alterations meant that the video was not an accurate or correct record of what had happened during the meeting.  He also said that he considered the article to be inaccurate as it condoned the actions of Jackie Weaver, and he considered that her actions had been improper.

4. The complainant also considered that the video included in the article breached Clause 2, as he appeared in the video and said that he had not been informed at the time that the meeting was being recorded. Both complainants had been in their home when the video was recorded, therefore the complainant said that the use of the video intruded on their private life; they did accept, however, that the video had been uploaded to Youtube prior to the article’s publication. The complainant further noted that, while the public were able to watch the meeting, this was via a link only, and approximately 5 to 6 members of the public attended the meeting.

5. The complainant also said that he considered that Clause 3 had been breached by the article, as it included material which was not compliant with the terms of the Clause; namely, the video, which he considered had been recorded illegally.

6. Turning to Clause 4, the complainant said that he considered this Clause had been breached as he did not consider that publication of the article had been handled sensitively. He believed that the publication should have been more sensitive, where the viral video had led to great shock amongst his close and extended family.

7. The complainant then said that he considered that the use of the video breached Clause 10, as he believed it had been recorded illegally on a secondary device, such as an iPad; he said he knew this was the case as had it been recorded directly from a computer, it would have shown a recording logo and there wasn’t one present in the video. He said that the press had a duty to ensure the video had not been recorded illegally, and that it had not done so in this case.

8. The publication said it did not accept that the article breached the Editors’ Code. It said that the accuracy of the video could be supported both by viewing the full video of the meeting – which was publicly available and showed the events of the meeting – and the council’s minutes of the meeting. It did not accept, therefore, that the video could be said to be inaccurate.

9. Turning to the complainants’ Clause 2 and Clause 10 concerns, it noted that the video was both publicly available and viral at the time of the article’s publication, and that the council’s meeting minutes made clear that a recording of the meeting could be made available on request. The publication also said that it could not comment on how the video was recorded, as it was not in a position to know the circumstances in which the recording was made; it also, therefore, could not be said to have sought to obtain a video recorded by a hidden camera. With these factors in mind, it did not accept that the article or video could represent a breach of Clause 2 or Clause 10.

10. The publication did not accept that the complainants’ concerns framed under Clause 4 engaged the terms of the Clause, where the article under complaint did not relate to a case of grief or shock.

11. The complainant said that the publication could not rely on the published minutes pf the meeting to support its position that the video was available to the public, as the minutes were inaccurate.

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.

Clause 2 (Privacy)*

i) Everyone is entitled to respect for their private and family life, home, physical and mental health, and correspondence, including digital communications.

ii) Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual's private life without consent. In considering an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy, account will be taken of the complainant's own public disclosures of information and the extent to which the material complained about is already in the public domain or will become so.

iii) It is unacceptable to photograph individuals, without their consent, in public or private places where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Clause 3 (Harassment)*

i) Journalists must not engage in intimidation, harassment or persistent pursuit.

ii) They must not persist in questioning, telephoning, pursuing or photographing individuals once asked to desist; nor remain on property when asked to leave and must not follow them. If requested, they must identify themselves and whom they represent.

 

iii)  Editors must ensure these principles are observed by those working for them and take care not to use non-compliant material from other sources.

Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock)

In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively. These provisions should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.

Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge)

i) The press must not seek to obtain or publish material acquired by using hidden cameras or clandestine listening devices; or by intercepting private or mobile telephone calls, messages or emails; or by the unauthorised removal of documents or photographs; or by accessing digitally-held information without consent.

ii) Engaging in misrepresentation or subterfuge, including by agents or intermediaries, can generally be justified only in the public interest and then only when the material cannot be obtained by other means.

Findings of the Committee

12. The Committee noted first that it was not in dispute that the thirty-second clip of the meeting included with the article was an excerpt from the recording of the meeting. It was clear from the description of the meeting included in the text of the article that it was only an excerpt, rather than an unedited recording of the meeting in full, and that it had been included as an illustration of some of the exchanges which had taken place during the meeting. In these circumstances, the Committee did not consider that the publication of the video in this format was significantly inaccurate, misleading, or distorted; there was no breach of Clause 1

13.  While the Committee understood that the complainant had concerns that the article condoned the actions of Ms Weaver, it noted that concerns that articles are biased or one-sided do not – in and of themselves – engage the terms of the Editors’ Code. As such, there was no breach of the Clause 1 on this point.

14. The terms of Clause 2 make clear that, when considering individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy, account will be taken of the extent to which the information complained of is in the public domain. In this instance, the complainant considered that the video included in the article – showing him and his son in their home – breached the terms of the Clause. However, the video showed proceedings at a public meeting held by a public body. Further, the video was available on YouTube at the time of the article’s publication, and had been viewed well over a million times. In these circumstances, the Committee did not consider that the complainant had a reasonable expectation of privacy over the video. There was, therefore, no breach of Clause 2.

15. The complainant had not alleged that the publication, or anyone working on its behalf, engaged in intimidation, harassment or persistent pursuit; furthermore, the complainant had not said that he had been approached by a journalist working for the publication who persisted in questioning, telephoning, pursuing or photographing him or his son once asked to desist. For this reason, the Committee found that there was no breach of Clause 3.

16. While the Committee understood that the video going “viral” had caused distress to the complainant, it noted that the terms of Clause 4 generally relate to cases involving bereavement, injury, and crime. Where the content of the article under complaint related to a parish council meeting, the Committee did not consider that the article related to the complainant’s personal grief or shock, and there was no breach of Clause 4.

17. The terms of Clause 10 make clear that the press should not seek to publish material obtained by using hidden cameras; the purpose of the Clause is to regulate the publication and acquisition of material obtained using clandestine devices and misrepresentation. In this case, the publication did not know exactly how the video had been recorded; however, neither party disputed that at the time the article was published, the video was widely available in the public domain. The basis advanced by the complainant for claiming the video had been obtained using a clandestine recording device was that it appeared not to have been recorded using the internal recording in the computer programme used to host the virtual meeting. While the Committee could not establish with certainty how the meeting was recorded, it did not agree that the use of a secondary device to make the recording amounted to a “clandestine” device for the purposes of Clause 10. The video depicted a publicly accessible meeting, and whether it had been recorded using an in-program recording function or a secondary recording device had no bearing on the content of the video. Explicit reference was made in the course of the meeting to the fact it was being recorded, when a participant referred to a copy being sent to a monitoring officer. Furthermore, the minutes of the meeting stated that a recording of the meeting was available. The Committee did not, therefore, consider that the publication engaged in any form of subterfuge or misrepresentation in the recording of the meeting.

18.  Furthermore, at the time the article was published, the video from which the clip was extracted was widely circulating in the public domain and had been viewed over one million times; the newspaper had not, therefore, been engaged, either directly or through an agent, in making or procuring the recording. It could not therefore be said that the newspaper had sought to obtain material obtained by using a hidden camera, and there was breach of Clause 10.

Conclusion(s)

19. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required

20. N/A


Date complaint received: 02/08/2021

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 09/02/2022