Ruling

10309-22 Various v The Times

    • Date complaint received

      8th September 2022

    • Outcome

      Breach - sanction: action as offered by publication

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee – 10309-22 Various v The Times

Summary of Complaint

1. The Independent Press Standards Organisation received various complaints that The Times breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “36% of Tories want him out”, published on 27 June 2022.

2. The article reported on the results of a YouGov poll, and said that “[a]bout four in ten Tory voters want Boris Johnson to quit, a poll shows” before going on to report that “the latest YouGov poll found that 60 per cent [of all voters] did not want him to be prime minister, against 25 per cent hoping that he is still in No 10 next year”.

3. The article was accompanied by a graphic showing the results of the poll, which was titled “What do Tory voters think”, which purported to show the views of Conservative voters. In the classic tablet edition of the newspaper, the graph showed three bars. The largest bar was labelled “Johnson to remain Prime Minister, 25%”; the second largest bar, which was approximately a third smaller than the largest bar, was labelled “I would prefer someone else to be PM, 60%”; and the smallest bar, which was approximately a quarter of the size of the largest bar, was labelled “Don’t Know, 15%”. Only the classic tablet edition version of the graph was labelled in this manner.

4. IPSO received 11 complaints about the article. Complainants said that the classic tablet edition of the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1, as the accompanying graph was incorrectly labelled; with the largest bar being labelled "Johnson to remain Prime Minister, 25%", where it appeared that a majority of respondents (60%) had in fact responded "I would prefer someone else to be PM".

5. Prior to IPSO making the publication aware of the complainants’ concerns, it republished the classic tablet version of the story with the graphic removed; this was done on the same day that the article was originally published.

6. Also prior to IPSO making the publication aware of the complainants’ concerns, it published corrections on its website and in print – one day after the initial publication of the graph. The print correction appeared in the newspaper’s regular Corrections & Clarifications column, on page 26. The website correction was published in the regular Corrections & Clarifications column. Both corrections read as follows:

A graphic that appeared in some tablet editions was misleading (news, Jun 27). Contrary to the figures shown, a poll found that 51 per cent of Conservative voters wanted Boris Johnson to remain prime minister in a year's time, 36 per cent would prefer someone else and 13 per cent did not know.

7. The publication said, while it accepted that the mislabelled graphic was misleading, it did not consider it to have been significantly misleading in breach of Clause 1. It said that this was the case where the text of the article made clear the actual poll results, which was that “[n]early four in ten Tory voters want Boris Johnson to quit”; therefore, it said that readers would have been made aware that an error had been made.

8. The publication explained that when the graphic was being processed for the classic tablet edition, a human error had occurred and the wrong figures were transferred to the artwork. It also provided the poll results which had acted as the source for the story: the 25%, 60%, and 15% figures correlated to the responses of all poll respondents, rather than just those who had voted Conservative in the previous election.

9. The publication also published the correction wording in the classic tablet edition of the newspaper on 7 July, two days after it had been made aware of the complainants’ concerns. This version of the correction appeared in the Corrections & Clarifications column.

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.

Findings of the Committee

10. The Committee acknowledged that the mistake had resulted from human error; however, it was not in dispute that the graphic as published was inaccurate in its claim that the results were from Tory voters rather than all voters.  It also considered the graph to be inaccurate where the relative size of the bars on the chart did not align with the figures provided. There was therefore a breach of Clause 1 (i).

11. The publication, while accepting that the graphic itself was inaccurate, had noted that the true position was made clear in the text of the article, which set out the poll results correctly and in full. However, the Committee considered that the text of the article could not be relied upon to correct the inaccurate accompanying graphic. Rather, the Committee considered the inaccuracy to be significant, and therefore in need of correction, where it claimed to provide the opinions of the Conservative-voting public of the Prime Minster of the United Kingdom, but gave figures relating to different data which was substantially different to the actual data. It also considered the graph to be significantly inaccurate and in need of correction where the relative size of the bars on the chart did not align with the figures provided.  The publication was therefore required to correct the graphic, under the terms of Clause 1(ii).

12. The Committee considered whether the action taken by the publication was sufficient to avoid a further breach of Clause 1(ii). For corrective action to satisfy the terms of Clause 1(ii), it must be published promptly and with due prominence. The corrective action should also make clear what information is being corrected, and what the true position is.

13. The publication had published corrections in print, online, and in the classic tablet edition of the newspaper. The correction made clear that it pertained to a “graphic that appeared in some tablet editions” which related to polling of Conservative voters on their view of Boris Johnson. It also set out that the graphic was misleading in relation to the “figures shown”, and gave the correct figures. The print and online correction had been published promptly prior to the publication being made aware of the IPSO complaint, and the tablet version of the correction was published two days after they were made aware. All of the corrections were published in established Corrections & Clarifications column. The Committee was therefore satisfied that the corrections addressed the terms of Clause 1 (ii), and there was no further breach.

Conclusion(s)

14. The complaint was partly upheld under Clause 1.

Remedial Action Required

15. The published corrections put the correct position on record and was offered promptly and with due prominence. No further action was required.


Date complaint received: 27/06/2022

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 24/08/2022