Ruling

Resolution Statement: Complaint 04898-15 Avery v The Daily Telegraph

    • Date complaint received

      17th September 2015

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Resolution Statement: Complaint 04898-15 Avery v The Daily Telegraph

Summary of complaint

1. Mark Avery complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Daily Telegraph had published an article, headlined “RSPB accused of failing to protect hen harrier nests in £2m scheme”, on 4 August  2015, which breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. 

2. The article reported that a forthcoming Government report on the status of hen harrier nests was expected to be critical of the RSPB’s efforts to nurture hen harrier nests. It also claimed that the report was expected to say that the six nests successful in 2015 had no RSPB involvement. It claimed that the successful nests were on or next to grouse moors. The article contained comments from a campaign group which were critical of the RSPB and a response from the RSPB. 

3. The complainant said that the “Government report” on hen harrier nests was in fact a press release, and that it did not criticise the RSPB. He said that the RSPB was involved in 3 of the 6 successful hen harrier nests, and that none of the successful nests were on grouse moors. 

4. The newspaper said that a Government report was published on 5 August, the day after the article was published. It said that the article was conjectural in nature; it made clear that it was reporting on what the report was expected to say; it was therefore entitled to be wrong about what the report would say. It noted that the article included the RSPB’s response to the criticisms made by the campaign group, which made clear its position that the claims were “unfounded”. 

Relevant Code Provisions

5. 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 distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and - where appropriate - an apology published. In cases involving the Regulator, prominence should be agreed with the Regulator in advance. 

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

Mediated outcome

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

7. After further correspondence, while the newspaper said that in remained in disagreement with the complainant on the RSPB’s level of involvement with each of the nesting sites, it offered to publish the following correction and apology on page 2 of the newspaper: 

Our report “RPSB accused of failing to protect hen harrier nests in £2m scheme" (Aug 4) stated that the RSPB was “expected to come under fire” from Natural England in a forthcoming report about hen harrier nests. The information on which this conjecture was based came from a single source and was not checked with Natural England. We accept that further enquiries might have revealed this and that our article was misleading. Although the RSPB was involved in guarding all six nests that failed, we understand that - contrary to what was stated in the article - it also was involved with three of the six successful ones. We apologise for the error. 

8. The newspaper also offered to amend the online article, and publish the above correction and apology at the foot of the article, which also made clear that the article had been amended. 

9. The complainant said that this would be a satisfactory resolution to his complaint. 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: 07/08/2015

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 17/09/2015