Ruling

Resolution Statement – 14035-23 Tucker v oxfordmail.co.uk

    • Date complaint received

      1st June 2023

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Resolution Statement – 14035-23 Tucker v oxfordmail.co.uk

 

Summary of Complaint

1. Robin Tucker complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that oxfordmail.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Not Our Future plans leaflet drop against Oxford 15 minute neighbourhoods and car ban”, published on 6 January 2023.

2. The article – which appeared online only – reported on a leaflet criticising Oxfordshire County Council's planned traffic measures which a named campaign group were intending to circulate around Oxford. The article reported that "plans by both councils to create six so-called '15 minute neighbourhoods' have been fiercely opposed by many in the city." It also said that a “consultation showed most respondents in the city objected to the plans."

3. The complainant said the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1. He disputed that there were plans for six minute neighbourhoods in Oxford, but rather six traffic filters. He also said the article was inaccurate to report that "most respondents in the city objected to the plans". He said that the public consultation did not show this, and opinion polling - undertaken by a separate organisation - showed that the majority of Oxford residents were in favour of the traffic filters.

4. Upon receipt of the complaint, and in an effort to resolve the complaint, the publication removed the reference to the “six” 15-minute neighbourhoods. Regarding the consultation, the publication did not accept the report was inaccurate. It said that in the Oxfordshire County Council-prepared traffic filters study showed that 7% of people (656 respondents) “supported/agreed” with the scheme, which was outweighed by negative responses. Notwithstanding this, the publication offered to amend the article in an attempt to resolve the complaint by stating that the consultation “received more comments with concerns than were supportive of the plans”. It further offered to publish a footnote clarification which would reference the removal of the number “six”.

5. In response, the complainant said that the amended sentence, “Plans to create so-called '15 minute neighbourhoods' have been fiercely opposed by many in the city” was technically accurate, but was still misleading as what was planned was not 15 minute neighbourhoods, but traffic filters to reduce the amount of traffic. Further, the complainant believed the sentence, “A consultation showed most respondents in the city objected to the plans, which were nevertheless approved by councillors” should be deleted as he believed the consultation did not show that most respondents in the city objected to the plans.

6. On 12 April, as a gesture of goodwill, the publication offered the following footnote correction:

“An earlier version of this article referenced plans for six 15-minute neighbourhoods. However, whilst there are plans for six traffic filters splitting the areas into different districts as detailed in an interview Cllr Duncan Enright gave to the Sunday Times, talks of 15-minute neighbourhoods alongside this scheme have not specifically detailed an exact number of the so-called neighbourhoods. We are happy to clarify this in a bid to avoid confusion.”

7. The publication also offered to amend the article regarding the consultation to report:

“Nevertheless, plans were approved by councillors – despite a consultation showing just 7% of respondents – 656 people – supported or agreed with the benefits when asked for comments on the scheme’s benefits. However, having been asked the same question, 1,240 people said it would move traffic to other areas, 764 people disagreed with the scheme, 444 felt it would increase congestion, 432 felt it would increase pollution and 403 said it will result in increased journey times.”

8. The complainant said that the claim “splitting the areas into different districts as detailed in an interview Cllr Duncan Enright gave to the Sunday Times” was inaccurate and misleading and should be removed. While the complainant accepted that the amendments to the online article contained accurate data, he still considered it misleading and proposed alternative wording.

Relevant Clause 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

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

10. During IPSO’s investigation the publication offered to publish the following footnote clarification:

"An earlier version of this article referenced plans for six 15-minute neighbourhoods. However, whilst there are plans for six traffic filters, talks of 15-minute neighbourhoods alongside this scheme have not specifically detailed an exact number of the so-called neighbourhoods. We are happy to clarify this in a bid to avoid confusion."

11. As well as replacing the sentence “A consultation showed most respondents in the city objected to the plans, which were nevertheless approved by councillors” with the following:

"Nevertheless, plans were approved by councillors – despite a consultation showing just 7% of respondents – 656 people – supported or agreed with the benefits when asked for comments on the scheme’s benefits. However, having been asked the same question, 1,240 people said it would move traffic to other areas, 764 people disagreed with the scheme, 444 felt it would increase congestion, 432 felt it would increase pollution and 403 said it will result in increased journey times. Whilst 379 people said public transport needs to be more frequent/reliable."

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:  23/02/2023

Date complaint concluded by IPSO:  29/04/2023