Ruling

Resolution Statement – 10567-22 Marson v express.co.uk

    • Date complaint received

      6th October 2022

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Resolution Statement – 10567-22 Marson v express.co.uk

Summary of Complaint

1. James Marson 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 “Brexit trade victory! UK strikes new US deal with major state TODAY in £200bn turbo boost”, published on 21 July 2022.

2. The article, which appeared online only, reported on a trade deal with North Carolina. The sub-headline stated that “BREXIT Britain is a step closer to a free trade deal with the US today after boosting a £200billion agreement with North Carolina”, while the article went on to report that the deal – the “second trade and economic Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with a US state” – would boost the “existing £200 billion deal with the US.”

3. The complainant said that the headline and sub-headline were inaccurate in breach of Clause 1, as they inaccurately suggested that the United Kingdom had a trading relationship with North Carolina worth £200 billion, which the deal would “boost”. He said that as a government press release promoting the deal referred to $1.6 billion dollars of trade between North Carolina and the United Kingdom. The complainant said that the £200 billion trade relationship was in fact with the United States as a whole.

4. The publication amended the article the day after it was published, and before it had been made aware of the complainant’s concerns. The headline was amended to read “Brexit trade victory! UK strikes new US deal with major state TODAY”, and the following correction was added to the top of the article:

Correction: A previous headline on this article stated 'Brexit trade victory! UK strikes new US deal with major state TODAY in £200bn turbo boost'. In fact, according to Penny Mordaunt, the deal will see UK "grow our already £220bn trade relationship" rather than create a £200bn boost. We are happy to clarify this.

5. The complainant said that his complaint had not been addressed. He noted that the article’s sub-headline still referred to the deal “boosting a £200billion agreement with North Carolina” – which was not the case. He again referred to the government press release, which stated: "The state already buys $1.6bn (or £1.2bn)- of goods from the UK”. He said that, therefore, the article’s sub-headline boosted the value of the existing trade relationship by nearly £199 billion.

6. The complainant further noted that the article suggested that there was a “deal” with the United States. He said that there was no such deal, which the press release made clear by referring simply to a “£200bn trade relationship”. He also expressed concern over the accuracy of the correction, where it referred to an MP stating that the deal would boost the “£220bn trade relationship”, while the press release quoted the MP as saying the deal would “grow our already £200bn trade relationship”.

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.

Mediated Outcome

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

8. During IPSO’s investigation the publication removed the sub-headline from the article. It accepted that it was misleading to report that the £200 billion figure was a boost and that this figure referred to the trade relationship with North Carolina. It also amended the correction, so that it read:

Correction: A previous headline on this article stated 'Brexit trade victory! UK strikes new US deal with major state TODAY in £200bn turbo boost'. In fact, according to Penny Mordaunt, the deal will see UK "grow our already £200bn trade relationship" rather than create a £200bn boost. The article also reported that the £200bn deal was exclusively with North Carolina. In fact, there is no deal with North Carolina nor US, but merely a trade relationship with the United States worth £200bn. We are happy to clarify this.

9. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to his satisfaction.

10. 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: 21/07/2022

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 26/09/2022