Ruling

11838-15 Portes v Daily Express

    • Date complaint received

      8th March 2016

    • Outcome

      Breach - sanction: action as offered by publication

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 11838-15 Portes v Daily Express

Summary of complaint

1. Jonathan Portes complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Express breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “75% of new jobs go to EU migrants in 1 year”, published on 12 November 2015. It was published online with the headline “Shocking figures reveal three out of four British jobs go to EU MIGRANTS”.

2. The article reported figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) UK Labour Market Statistical Bulletin from November 2015, and said that 75% of “new jobs” created in the last year had been filled by migrants from the European Union (EU), and that “three out of four job hunters who found work in Britain in the past year were migrants from the EU”. The text of the article was the same in print and online; only the headlines differed.

3. The complainant said that these references were inaccurate. The ONS figures represented net changes in employment, and not new jobs. He said that it was obviously wrong that migrants fill most new British jobs; the vast majority of people starting a new job every day in the UK are born in the UK. In 2010, for example, approximately 85% of new hires were of British-born workers. The article gave the significantly misleading impression that migrants were displacing British-born people in the workforce. Net changes in employment figures do not show any information about the proportion of job hunters who found work in a given period; they do not allow for people who leave the job market permanently; and they do not reflect that some individuals might get two jobs, or half a job. The complainant noted that the statistical bulletin which had been the source of the figures specifically stated that “the estimates of employment by both nationality and country of birth relate to the number of people in employment rather than the number of jobs. Changes in the series therefore show net changes in the number of people in employment, not the proportion of new jobs that have been filled by UK and non-UK workers.”

4. The complainant noted that there were two rulings on the Press Complaints Commission’s (PCC) website which covered a similar point to this one (albeit against different newspapers), and they had both found that referring to the statistics in the manner in which the Daily Express had on this occasion constituted a significant inaccuracy requiring of correction.

5. The newspaper said that the reference to “new jobs” in the print headline had been introduced during the sub-editing process; it accepted that this was a significant inaccuracy which required correction. It did not accept that the reference in the first line of the article to “job hunters who found work in Britain” was inaccurate, as a “job hunter” is not the same as a “job” – it refers to individuals, no matter if they are looking for one job, two jobs, or half a job.

6. Upon receipt of the complaint the newspaper published the following correction, in its Amplifications & Clarifications column on the Letters page (in this case page 40); the original article had appeared on page 2. The newspaper also amended the online article and added a version of the correction as a footnote:

“Employment of EU migrants – Correction

On November 12, 2015 we reported that 75% of new jobs went to EU migrants in the last year. This is incorrect. The Office for National Statistics published data was based on net changes in employment and not on the number of people entering new jobs. The figures showed that the number of UK nationals in employment increased by 122,000 compared to an increase of 324,000 in non-UK EU nationals.”

7. The complainant was satisfied with the text of the correction - which had been agreed with him in advance - but not with its placement on page 40. He had made a complaint to IPSO about the same newspaper a few months previously, and the complaint had been upheld as a breach of Clause 1. In its ruling the Committee had said that “while it noted the newspaper’s assertion that the ‘Amplifications & Clarifications’ column had been published on its letters page for a number of years, there was no information published on the newspaper’s letters page to signal to readers that this was where corrections would ordinarily appear, and the column itself was published infrequently. For these reasons, it did not amount to an established corrections column.” The complainant said that the correction would need to be published on page 2, unless the newspaper had taken actions to remedy the issues previously identified by the Committee.

8. The newspaper argued that the correction had been published with due prominence. It said that all corrections had been published there for more than 20 years, and it now features information about how to complain, as well as making clear to readers that all corrections will appear there. It said that the requirements of Clause 1 had been met.

Relevant Code Provisions

9. Clause 1 (Accuracy)

i) The press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information.

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and – where appropriate – an apology published.

Findings of the Committee

10. The figures produced by the ONS do not show how many people found “new jobs” in a given period, nor do they show how many “job hunters” found work. Rather, they show net changes in employment. They do not account for people who leave the job market permanently, such as British-born retirees, and as such do not provide a basis on which to found claims about “new jobs”. This had been accepted by the newspaper. The presentation of the statistics in this way, in both the headlines of both versions of the article and the first sentence of the text, represented a failure to take care not to publish inaccurate information in breach of Clause 1 (i). This failure was particularly concerning as the ONS bulletin had specifically made clear that the figures did not represent “new jobs”.

11. The established inaccuracies - both the headline of the article and the reference to “three out of four job hunters who found work in Britain” in the first line of the article - were significant because they gave the misleading impression that the statistics showed that migrants are receiving jobs at a much higher rate than British-born workers. The inaccuracies required correction under Clause 1 (ii).

12. The newspaper had already published a correction in response to the complaint. The correction identified the inaccurate statements from the original article, and made clear the correct position; its text was satisfactory. The newspaper had offered to publish a correction in its first substantive response to the complainant, which constituted sufficient promptness for the purposes of Clause 1 (ii).

13. The Committee then turned to consider the issue of due prominence. It has previously made clear that it considers established corrections columns to be of significant value, and would be slow to undermine a column where one exists. It had also found, in response to an earlier complaint, that this newspaper did not have such a column, as it was not published regularly and the Letters page did not contain information that would make clear to readers that corrections would ordinarily be published there.

14. The Committee noted that, following the earlier decision, the newspaper had taken steps to remedy the deficiencies identified. The newspaper regularly publishes a box on its Letters page which has information about IPSO, details about how to complain, and makes clear that “all corrections and clarifications which result from complaints to this publication will be published on this page.” The column on the newspaper’s Letters page now constitutes an established corrections column. The newspaper had published the correction with due prominence; there was no breach of Clause 1 (ii).

Conclusions

15. The complaint was upheld under Clause 1 (Accuracy).

Remedial Action Required

16. In circumstances where the Committee establishes a breach of the Editors’ Code it can require the publication of a correction and/or adjudication, the nature, extent and placement of which is determined by IPSO. Given that the inaccuracy in this case had previously been the subject of two upheld PCC complaints, and therefore it was established in the public domain that it was significantly inaccurate, the Committee gave careful consideration as to whether the newspaper should be required to publish an adjudication in this case. However, it noted that the newspaper had taken swift action to remedy the breach. On this occasion, the published correction was satisfactory and no further action was required.

Date complaint received: 04/12/2015
Date decision issued: 08/03/2016