Ruling

03469-15 Bex v Witney Gazette

    • Date complaint received

      12th August 2015

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 2 Privacy

·  Decision of the Complaints Committee 03469-15 Bex v Witney Gazette

Summary of complaint 

1. Colin Bex complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Witney Gazette breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Opportunity to reply) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “One of the safest seats in Britain”, published on 6 May 2015. 

2. The article was a report of the candidates standing in the Witney constituency for the General Election. It included some short biographies of several candidates, along with their pictures. A footnote said that “other candidates did not provide biographies”. 

3. The complainant was a candidate in the election, and he said that he had provided a biography and photograph to the newspaper prior to publication; the footnote was therefore inaccurate. He was concerned that readers would have been misled into believing that he was not one of the candidates running for election. 

4. He also raised more general concerns about his candidacy receiving less coverage than others’, and the fact that he had provided the newspaper with press releases relating to his campaign activities, which were not then reported. 

5. The newspaper did not believe that its article was inaccurate. It provided its email correspondence with the complainant and his party representatives, which showed that he had not provided a biography by the stated deadline. He had also attended the newspaper’s offices for his photograph to be taken too late for inclusion in the article under complaint. The newspaper noted that that day’s coverage had elsewhere referred to his candidacy and named the party for which he had stood. It did not believe that readers would have been misled. 

6. The newspaper did not agree that the complainant’s concerns about the balance of its election coverage engaged the Editors’ Code, but nonetheless rejected any assertion that it had suppressed coverage of some of the parties. It said that the decision on what stories to report was at the discretion of the Editor alone. 

Relevant Code Provisions

7. Clause 1 (Accuracy) 

i) The press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures. 

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distorted once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and – where appropriate – an apology published. 

iii) The press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact. 

Clause 2 (Opportunity to reply) 

A fair opportunity for reply to inaccuracies must be given when reasonably called for. 

Findings of the Committee

8. The newspaper had demonstrated that the complainant had provided his biography after the deadline for publication had passed. There was no failure to take care over the accuracy of the article; the reference complained of was not inaccurate. 

9. An opportunity to reply may be required where inaccuracies have been established. As that was not the case on this occasion, there was no breach of Clause 2. 

10. Newspapers are not required to provide equal coverage to all political parties. The Code expressly says that they are free to be partisan. The complainant’s concern that his party had not been given adequate coverage in the newspaper did not raise a breach of the Code. 

Conclusions

11. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required

N/A 

Date complaint received: 06/05/2015

Date decision issued: 12/08/2015