Ruling

07537-16 Race v express.co.uk

    • Date complaint received

      5th January 2017

    • Outcome

      Breach - sanction: action as offered by publication

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 07537-16 Race v express.co.uk

Summary of complaint

1. Clare Race complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that express.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “UK will build trading zone TEN times bigger than EU with mega-deals with 12 major nations” published online on 17 July 2016.

2. The article reported that according to Liam Fox, Secretary of State for International Trade, Britain already has “10 trade deals lined up around the world as it forges its post-Brexit future”. It said that Whitehall confirmed that 10 “economic powerhouses”, including India, China, Japan, Australia and Canada had “already committed informally to forming strong trade links with the UK”. It said that another “important partner” will be the United States.

3. The complainant said that the online headline inaccurately suggested that the UK would enjoy 10 times the level of trade it currently enjoys with the EU. She said that the EU’s level of economic output represented a significant portion of the world’s total economic output, and that it was therefore impossible for the UK to find ten times this level of trade with the countries referred to in the article.

4. The newspaper said that according to Liam Fox, the UK had 10 trade deals lined up with other countries, including India, China, Japan, Australia, Canada, America, Singapore, Malaysia and Brazil. It said that the combined population of these countries was 3.391 billion people, and that the population of the EU – excluding the UK – was 444 million. It took the view that the online headline was inaccurate, and amended it to read: “UK has 10 trade deals lined up with economic powerhouses”. In addition, it published the following correction at the foot of the article:

Correction

This article was amended on 11 August 2016. The headline originally said "UK will build trading zone TEN times bigger than EU with mega-deals with 12 major nations", the article was published on 17 July 2016. According to Liam Fox, the new Secretary of State for International Trade claimed Britain has 10 trade deals lined up with other countries. These include countries such as India, China, Japan, Australia and Canada who have informally committed to forming strong trade links with the UK. Whilst the UK is in talks with other countries to form new trading partnerships it is inaccurate to state those deals would create a trading zone ten times bigger that the EU trading zone.

Relevant Code provisions

5. 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.

Findings of the Committee

6. The article did not make clear the basis on which the online headline claim, that the UK would build a trading zone that is “ten times bigger” than the EU, could be made. The Committee acknowledged that the newspaper did not say how it had calculated the size of the zone. The newspaper accepted, however, that the total population of the countries it had listed amounted to approximately 7.6 – rather than ten – times the population of the EU. While the Committee did not accept that the claim suggested specifically that the UK would enjoy ten times the level of trade than with the EU, presenting it in the online headline in this manner – where it was unsupported by the text of the article, and where the newspaper had not been able to provide a convincing explanation as to why it was accurate – represented a failure to take care not to publish misleading information, in breach of Clause 1 (i).

7. The online headline carried the misleading suggestion that there was a basis on which it could be claimed that a trading zone that was “ten times bigger” than the EU would be built following Brexit. This required correction under the terms of Clause 1 (ii). The newspaper had removed the reference to the trading zone’s being “ten times bigger”, and had published a correction online beneath the online article that identified the original inaccuracy, and made the correct position clear. The correction had been published promptly and prominently, and there was no further breach of the Code.

Conclusions

8. The complaint was upheld.

Remedial Action Required

9. Having upheld the complaint, the Committee considered what remedial action should be required.

10. The newspaper had promptly amended the online headline to remove the inaccuracy, and published a correction beneath the article documenting the change, and making the correct position clear. It appeared in a sufficiently prominent location.

11. No further action was required.

Date complaint received: 29/07/2016
Date decision issued:  12/12/2016