Resolution Statement – 11453-22 Kusamotu v The Times

    • Date complaint received

      24th November 2022

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Resolution Statement – 11453-22 Kusamotu v The Times

Summary of Complaint

1. Tunde Kusamotu complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Times breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Nigeria banishes white models and British voices from adverts”, published on 27 August 2022.

2. The article reported that, “[a]s part of a ‘policy of developing local talent’”, Nigeria‘s “advertising regulator has announced a ban on ‘foreign models and voiceover artists’ from October”. It went on to report that “[t]he ban would cover all non-Nigerians, affecting the western, white actors who have appeared regularly on the country’s televisions”.

3. The article also appeared online in substantially the same format under the headline “Nigeria becomes first country to ban white models in adverts”.

4. The complainant said that both versions of the headline were inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) because Nigeria had not “banish[ed]” or “ban[ned]” white models – as reported by the print and online headline’s respectively. Rather, it had restricted the use of foreign models. He said that the article did not support the headline, and that the latter unfairly depicted Nigeria and the policy as discriminatory against white people. To support his position, the complainant provided a statement from the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON).  The statement included the following excerpts:

[T]he Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON) […] bans the use of foreign models and voice-over artists on any advertisement targeted or exposed on the Nigerian advertising space with effect from 1st October 2022. […] All advertisements, advertising and marketing communication materials are to make use of only Nigerian model and voice-over artist[s].

5. The publication said it did not accept that the headline was inaccurate, misleading, or distorted; it considered it to be a fair summary of the article. Notwithstanding this, as a gesture of goodwill, and prior to the complainant making an IPSO complaint, the publication amended the online version of the headline so that it instead read: “Nigeria becomes first country to ban foreign models in adverts”.

6. The complainant did not consider this sufficient to resolve his complaint, as he considered that it did not correct the previous headline: the publication had not admitted any error, offered an apology, explained why the headline had been amended, and had not given the correction any publicity. The complainant therefore made a complaint to IPSO.

7. The complainant said that he would be content to resolve his complaint should the newspaper publish an online correction as footnote to the article – with the relevant search engines “put on notice” – and if the newspaper also published a print correction with the same prominence as the original article (which appeared on page 42 and in the ‘World’ section of the newspaper).

8. During IPSO’s investigation, the publication expanded on its original response to the complainant. It said that both headlines were supported by the text of the article, further noting that a headline cannot – and is not required by IPSO to – capture every nuance of its accompanying article, provided any claim made in the headline can be supported by the text of an article. In this instance, the headlines had focused on the aspect of the story which the publication considered would be of interest to its target, British audience: what the publication said was a de-facto ban on white models and British accents. It said that the story was widely understood and discussed online in these terms, and provided links to other publication which it said supported this.

9. The complainant said that the publication was within its rights to deny a breach of the Code, as only IPSO’s Code Committee could determine whether or not it was breached. However, he reiterated that he did not consider that the headline was supported by the text of the article, and that the question of whether the headline was misleading was an objective one: would the average person read the headline and believe that Nigeria was discriminating against white people. He said that it was, in his view, important that the media avoid sensationalism and the “sowing of racial divisions in society”.

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

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

11. During IPSO’s investigation the publication – while maintaining that neither headline represented a breach of the Editors’ Code – offered to print the following correction in print in its usual Corrections & Clarifications column, and online as a footnote to the article:

We said in a headline that Nigeria had banished white models from adverts.  In fact, as the accompanying article explained, the ban extends to all foreigners, regardless of colour. We are happy to make this clear. 

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

13.  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: 02/09/2022

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 21/10/2022