Ruling

17325-17 The Governing Council of the Royal Albert Hall v The Times

    • Date complaint received

      27th April 2018

    • Outcome

      Breach - sanction: publication of correction

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 17325-17 The Governing Council of the Royal Albert Hall v The Times

Summary of Complaint

1. The governing Council of the Royal Albert Hall complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Times breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in the following articles:

“Anger over the resale of Royal Albert Hall tickets”, published in print and online on 9 January 2017;

“Disgrace” of Albert Hall members who resell tickets”, published in print and online on 19 January 2017;

“Albert Hall defiant in ticket resale row”, published in print and online on 21 January 2017;

“The Proms should stop this ticket scandal- or leave the Albert Hall”, published in print and online on 1 September 2017;

“Unmask seat owners, Albert Hall told”, published in print and online on 14 September.

The articles under complaint

2. The series of articles reported on a long running debate about the practice of Members of the Hall, which is a charity, selling tickets for seats they own at the Hall for “inflated prices”.

3. The first article reported that a “fresh row” had erupted over the issue, claiming that the complainant had “allowed debenture holders to circumvent a ban on the resale of tickets” for a series of concerts in 2015. It said that the complainant had “failed to enforce rules” which had been drawn up by the promoter of these concerts, which had the intention of “limiting the number of tickets being made available for sale on the secondary market”. The first article also contained a statement from the complainant’s spokesperson: “Members seats are their own private property with their rights enshrined in the hall’s royal charter and acts of parliament; neither the hall nor the promoter has the ability to impose restrictions on how [they] choose to use or dispose of their tickets”.

4. The second article reported on criticism of the complainant from the Hall’s former President. It said that that [the Hall’s] leaders had been described as “presiding over a ‘national disgrace’” by one of its former Presidents, who had also accused Members of “ignoring the hall’s official system for passing on unwanted tickets and choosing to maximise their profits by using ticket resale websites”.

5. The online version of the second article was amended to remove the words “presiding over” from the first paragraph, so that the article claimed that “the leaders of the Royal Albert Hall have been described as a 'national disgrace" by a former president in a row over members reselling tickets”.

6. The former President also criticised the members of the Council who own seats at the Hall and were therefore in a position to sell their tickets. The article included his “demand” that “trustees of the hall…declare any revenue that they make from selling tickets”. He had claimed: “members of the hall’s council own 145 seats worth conservatively £14.5 million. This interest is largely undeclared and as trustees of the charity, their position of privilege and the advantages afforded by the hall’s charitable status puts them in a position to profit personally. For this to have been unregulated, despite being in the public domain for so long, is a national disgrace”.

7. The third article reported that the complainant “will defy demands” by the Charity Commission to “overhaul its ruling council which is dominated by owners of debenture seats and boxes”. It said that the Commission had “threatened to open a statutory inquiry into the trust that runs the hall after concerns of an ‘inherent unresolvable conflict of interest’ caused by the majority of its ruling council owning seats”.

8. The third article continued by reporting that the head of an internal review into the trust’s constitution had told the newspaper that it would “recommend reducing the number of seat owners on the council while ensuring that they remain a majority”. This decision, the article claimed, had “infuriated the regulator”. The article also reported a statement from the Charity Commission’s spokesperson: “The commission has made clear that the issue of conflicts of interest and the independence of the council from the seat owners should be dealt with as part of [the internal] review.”

9. The third article also reported a statement made by the Chairman of the Charity Commission: “the “scale of commercialisation in private sales of seats raises questions about whether the charity is in fact operating in the public interest”. The newspaper had obtained this quote from an interview which he had given to another publication, in which the Chairman had continued by saying: “The trustees should consider whether such arrangements risk damaging public confidence in their charity. This is a matter of great concern to the Commission and we expect the trustees to resolve the issue swiftly and openly”.

10. The third article also reported a further statement from the former President of the Hall, whose criticism had formed the basis of the second article. It reported that he had “accused the hall of breaching charity law by failing to reveal the value of the seats owned by the council members and the income received from the sale of tickets”.

11. The fourth article was an opinion piece, which detailed the columnist’s concern at the difficulty in obtaining tickets for the Last Night of the Proms, an event held annually at the Hall. The columnist said that it was “extremely hard” to obtain tickets for the event by going through “official channels” but it was “very easy if you have a few thousand quid to spare and go to a ticket resale website”. The reason “why it’s so easy”, the columnist had claimed, was because “1,275 of the Royal Albert Hall’s seats are owned by members of the grandly named Corporation of the Hall of Arts and Sciences”. The columnist suggested that the BBC, the organisation which runs the Last Night of the Proms, were in a position to “stop this ticket scandal” by threatening to transfer the Last Night to another venue.

12. The fifth article claimed that a former director of the BBC Proms had “called for people who own seats at the Royal Albert Hall to be named to curb the practice of them selling allocations of tickets at inflated prices”. It said that the Charity Commission had “previously expressed concern about the issue” and had “recently requested that the attorney-general refer the matter to the Charity Tribunal for clarification”.

The complainant’s position

13. The complainant said that the newspaper had, over many months, given its readers an inaccurate and misleading impression of the Hall, its governance and the status of Members’ seats. It said that the newspaper had denied them a proper right of reply or any opportunity to comment on the articles’ serious claims. 

14. The complainant said that it had no control over how Members use or dispose of their tickets: this was their proprietary right.

15. The complainant explained that individuals who had contributed financially to the construction of the Royal Albert Hall had been granted property rights over seats, for a period of 999 years, by virtue of the terms of the 1867 Royal Charter. The terms of the Charter allowed the seat owner unfettered access to their seats, and their tickets, and did not contain a provision which would prevent them from licensing the use of their seats to others.

16. The complaint said that as the Charter was an Act of Parliament, only Parliament had the power to change its terms. It explained that amendments to the Charter could only be made by passing a resolution by a 75% majority of Members. It said that even if Members volunteered by that majority, to relinquish their property rights and empower the Hall to make such an application, Parliament would be required to agree that this would be proportionate. It said that this was unlikely given that the outcome of this process may result in the confiscation of Members’ private property rights.

17. The complainant said that it was therefore inaccurate for the articles to suggest that it “allows” its Members to sell on their tickets for profit, or that it was “presiding over” the practice. It said that the restrictions put in place by the promoter of the 2015 concerts had not applied to members’ tickets, and so it was inaccurate to state that Members had “circumvented” a ban on resales.

18. The complainant denied that Members’ tickets were being “re-sold”: members were selling their tickets so as to provide access to their private property and not, as suggested, in a manner akin to the industry-wide issue of secondary ticket sales. The characterisation of Members as “debenture holders” was also misleading as it suggested that the terms of the Charter had conferred a temporary agreement between a lender and a borrower, rather than granting permanent seat ownership.

19. While the complainant maintained that it had no control over Members’ private property and the way they use or dispose of their tickets, it noted that it had encouraged members to sell unwanted tickets through a voluntary Ticket Return Scheme, where 60% of all Members’ tickets are returned.

20. The complainant said that the articles had misrepresented its interactions with the Charity Commission; the Commission was not concerned about Members selling their tickets in general and it had not threatened to open a statutory inquiry into the trust that runs the Hall. The complainant said that the inclusion of the allegations made by its former President, rendered the third article significantly misleading, as it suggested that it had breached charity law by failing to reveal the value of the seats owned by Council members and the income received from the sale of tickets. The complainant acknowledged that the Charity Commission was seeking consent from the Attorney General to refer questions to the Charity Tribunal under s.325 of the Charities Act 2011; however it said that the Commission’s concern was not about tickets per se, or their “resales”.

21. The complainant acknowledged that the Commission had previously “expressed a preference” that the Hall’s council move to a minority of seat holding Members. The complainant said that it had commenced a constitutional review which the Commission were being regularly updated on- this did not amount to “defying” the Charity Commission’s “demands”. The complainant said that inclusion of the statement from the Charity Commission’s spokesperson in the third article was therefore misleading, as it suggested that the issue of conflicts of interest and independence of the Council from seat owners was not being dealt with as part of its internal review.

22. The complainant said that the second article had distorted a quotation from its former President. It said that his concern related to the lack of regulation regarding the “issue” of members selling their tickets; he had not claimed that the Hall’s governing body were a “national disgrace”. The complainant was concerned at the amendment which had then been made to the online article, so as to accuse its trustees of being a “national disgrace”. It said that this was not a claim made by its former President, and was far more damaging.

23. The complainant said that the fourth article had suggested that the issue of high prices for the Last Night of the Proms, and the alleged difficulties for members of the public in obtaining tickets, was primarily due to Members selling their tickets. It said that this practice did not contradict its commitment to prevent the secondary marketing of tickets. The complainant also said that the article had given the inaccurate impression that the Hall’s conduct was in breach of charity law by suggesting that the organisers of the Proms should withdraw from the Hall in order to force it to reform.

The newspaper’s position:

24. The newspaper did not accept a breach of the Code. It said that it was accurate to report that the complainant was allowing members to sell the tickets they receive by virtue of their seat ownership, and that it was “presiding over” this practice; the complainant provided Members with tickets, and did not prevent them from selling them. It said that the meaning of “allow” was dependent on context: the articles had been clear that the complainant was not stopping the practice, despite the Charity Commission putting it under pressure to deal with the conflict which this practice creates. It was this inaction, the newspaper said, which amounted to the complainant “allowing” the practice to continue.

25. The newspaper did not accept the complainant’s position that it did not have a mandate to intervene in Members selling their tickets and noted the Ticket Return Scheme which had been set up by the complainant. The newspaper suggested that the complainant could refuse entry to the Hall in certain circumstances, including if tickets have been bought from secondary resale sites. It suggested that while it may be a cumbersome process, the complainant could seek to prevent the sales via an Act of Parliament. It noted that the complainant had previously sought to take such steps, when it wished to make a different amendment to its constitution.

26. The newspaper said that it was accurate to report that the complainant had “allowed” members to circumvent the 2015 ban. It said that the article did not suggest that the complainant had failed to enforce certain rules set out by the promoter or that the ban had applied to Members’ tickets. The article had made clear that the source of the promoter’s concern was the complainant’s policy of allowing Members to sell tickets, when he had sought to limit the number of resales.

27. The newspaper did not accept that referring to the arrangements of sale as “resales”, or referring to Members as “debenture holders” was significantly inaccurate, and noted that Members had been described as “debentures” previously, without complaint. The newspaper noted that the first article had reported the statement from the complainant’s spokesperson, which had set out the private, proprietary nature of members’ interests in their seats.

28. The newspaper said that it had reported the Commission’s concerns accurately. It was erroneous to suggest that the Commission was not concerned with Members selling their tickets as it was such selling that created the conflict in the complainant’s council. It was not possible to separate the issue of ticket sales from the issue of control of the charity, as the complainant was seeking to do. In support of this, the newspaper provided a statement which it had received from the Charity Commission, issued in September 2017:

“Under the Royal Charter that was created when the Hall was built in 1860s, individuals who helped finance its construction were rewarded with seats which could be handed down generations or sold permanently, like property. They can also be sold, very profitably, for individual nights of entertainment. The problem is that the seat holders are a majority of the council that runs the charity- 19 out of 25- which raises an inherent unresolvable conflict of interest in its governance.

The question is whether these arrangements enable the Council to be perceived as furthering the purposes of the charity for the public benefit. We have been engaged with the Hall for some time and, while progress has been made in some areas, the central issue of how to deal with the conflicts of interest, and suggested private benefit, remain unresolved and the Hall has shown minimal appetite to address these.

The charity had sought to address these issues by spending charitable funds to bring parliamentary proceedings to alter its constitution, by changing the Act of Parliament on which it was founded. However, the Commission has declined to authorise the charity to spend charitable funds on preparing or promoting a parliamentary Bill to implement its governance review. The Commission has concluded that it is not in the best interests of the charity to do so.

The Commission has statutory powers to establish schemes where it is necessary to alter an Act of Parliament which establishes or regulates a charity, and we believe this is the appropriate route for the outcome of a governance review requiring such constitutional changes to be made.

Due to the complex nature of these matters, we have taken the unprecedented step of seeking the consent of the Attorney General to refer a number of questions to the Charity Tribunal, under s.325 of the Charities Act 2011, concerning issues relating to the charity and the exercise of the Commission’s regulatory powers by way of a scheme, to finally address this issue”.

29. The newspaper said that the third article did not, as the complainant had suggested, refer to an ultimatum made by the Charity Commission. It simply reflected the long-running dispute between the complainant and the Commission. Nor had the third article stated that the complainant had breached charity law; it had contained an accusation made by the complainant’s former President.

30. The newspaper said that another publication had reported an interview with the chair of the Charity Commission, who had said that “The Royal Albert Hall has now been given until May to put its house in order or face a formal inquiry by the Commission”. Following this, a journalist had contacted the Commission for comment, who had said “The Royal Albert Hall is currently undertaking a governance review. The Commission has made clear that the issue of conflicts of interest and the independence of the Council from the seat owners should be dealt with as part of this review. The Commission will not pre-judge the outcome of this review and will assess its regulatory options once this has been presented”.

31. The newspaper said that it was entitled to report the opinion of the complainant’s former President, and said that there was no meaningful inaccuracy in the second article, caused by the original misquoting of his words. The suggestion that the trustees “preside over” over the “national disgrace” of Members selling their tickets, or that the trustees are a disgrace themselves for presiding over this practice, were substantively similar and would not lead to any misunderstanding of his views.

32. The newspaper said that the moment the complainant had raised concern regarding the original version of the online second article, it had apologised. It had explained that the omission of the words “presiding over” had occurred inadvertently and offered to reinsert the words. While it did not accept that the amendment to the online article had resulted in a breach of the Code, it reinserted the words “presiding over” into the first paragraph and added the following footnote on to the online article:

“This article was amended on [date] to correct an error introduced in the editing process, for which we apologise, which resulted in the article stating that a former     president of the Royal Albert Hall had said that its leaders were a “national disgrace”, when in fact what he said was that they were presiding over a “national disgrace”.   This is strongly denied by the Corporation that runs the Albert Hall”

33. The newspaper said that it had attempted to contact the complainant for comment, prior to the publication of the first article. The journalist had called the urgent out of hours number for press enquiries and left a message but no one returned his call. It said that the journalist had also used the complainant’s online contact form, but received no response.

34. The newspaper said it had attempted to mediate a resolution to the complaint and had suggested a number of formulations for a clarification, all of which had been rejected by the complainant.  While it did not accept a breach of the Code, it offered to publish the following wording in its Corrections & Clarifications column, in addition to the footnote on the second online article:

“In a number of recent articles, we said that the Royal Albert Hall allowed members who own Hall seats to resell their tickets for events and, on one occasion, to circumvent a ban on them doing so. The seats are privately owned, non-charitable property and the sales are not “resales”. The trustees point out that the ban did not apply to members’ seats, members are free to sell their tickets, and the Hall cannot control these sales. They deny they are presiding over a “national disgrace” and also say they are committed to working with the BBC to help them fight secondary sales of Proms tickets by non members. We are happy to clarify that the Charity Commission has not issued them with an ultimatum or threatened a statutory inquiry and that there has been no breach of charity law for not revealing the value of the seats owned by the council members and the income received from ticket sales. We apologise for any inaccuracies”.

35. The newspaper changed all references to “reselling” in all the online articles to “selling”. It also offered to consider a letter for publication from the complainant, subject to the right to edit it- as with all letters submitted for publication. It also offered to circulate a note to all of its news executives alerting them to the complainant’s concerns and, assuming a resolution was reached, drawing their attention to the wording to be published and asking them to bear these points in mind when publishing material about the Royal Albert Hall in the future.

Further comments from the complainant:

36. In response to a request by IPSO to explain why it was not possible for it to refuse entry to members of the public who had bought Members’ tickets on the open market, the complainant said that it was not able to dictate to Members how to dispose of their tickets. It also noted that such entrance restrictions would pose practical problems as staff checking such tickets upon persons entering an event would have no way of knowing whether the ticket in question had been donated, had been transferred as part of a charity auction, or indeed, sold at a discount.

37. The complainant said it had no record of the newspaper seeking comment from them prior to the first article, or at all. It did not accept the newspaper’s offer of resolution, nor its previous formulations; the newspaper had continued to offer wording which was unsatisfactory and which it had made clear that it would not accept. The complainant said that it sought a fair right of reply, having been denied that in the articles.

Relevant Code provisions

38. 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

39. The articles under complaint contained criticism of the complainant from a number of sources, including in one instance, a columnist from the newspaper. At the core of this criticism was the allegation that the complainant “allows” its Members to sell their tickets. The complainant and the publication attributed different meanings to this claim. The complainant said that it had no standing to allow or disallow how Members use or dispose of their tickets. The newspaper did not dispute that Members had a proprietary right over their seats, but argued that it was not misleading to report that it “allows” these individuals to sell their tickets for inflated prices, where the complainant had failed to take any action to address the issue.

40. The question of whether the use of “allow” was misleading in breach of Clause 1 depended on the context in which it was placed. The first article had made the distinct claim that the complainant had “allowed” its members to “circumvent a ban” on the resale of tickets.  It was not in dispute that the terms of sale imposed by the promoter did not apply to Members tickets; reporting that Members had “circumvented” a ban, and the complainant had allowed them to do so, misrepresented the terms of sale. This represented failure to take care over the accuracy of the article. The use of the term “allow”, in that context, was significantly inaccurate, as it suggested that the complainant had failed to comply with an obligation to which is was subject, and required correction under the terms of 1(ii).

41. The newspaper was entitled to take the view that the complainant had not taken sufficient steps to publicly condemn or discourage the practice of Members selling their tickets for high prices, despite public statements made by the Chairman of the Charity Commission who had expressed concern about whether the charity was acting in the public interest given the scale of commercialism in private seat sales by council members. This was the basis for the newspaper’s position that the complainant “allowed” Members to sell their tickets for high prices. In circumstances where all of the articles under complaint made clear the current legal status of Members’ property, so that readers were able to evaluate the meaning of the term, this characterisation was not misleading. The use of the term “allow”, or the allegation that the leaders of the Hall were “presiding over” over Members selling their tickets, did not represent a breach of Clause 1.

42. The articles also reported on the complainant’s long running engagement with the Charity Commission; the complainant said that the articles had misrepresented the nature of the Commission’s concerns.

43. In considering the care taken over the reporting of the complainant’s interactions with its regulator, the Committee had regard to the statement from the Commission’s Chairman which had been published in the third article that the “scale of commercialism in the private sales of seats raises questions about whether the charity is in fact operating in the public interest” and the statement which had been issued by the Charity Commission in September 2017.

44. The complainants’ interactions with the Charity Commission were referred to in the third and fifth article. The third article had referred explicitly to the Commission’s concern about a conflict of interest caused by “the majority of [the complainant’s] ruling council owning seats”. The statement of the Charity Commission had set out that seats held by Members could be sold profitably; it had identified a “problem” with this arrangement which was that seat holders were a majority of the council and had said that this “raised an inherent unresolvable conflict of interest in its governance”. It was not in dispute that trustees on the complainant’s council were in a position to sell tickets by virtue of their seat ownership. In the context of the vociferous concerns expressed publicly by the Commission’s Chairman, it was not misleading to present the public statements from the Commission as expressions of concern that council Members were selling their tickets. There was no failure to take care over the presentation of the complainant’s interactions with the Commission on these points, or the basis for the reference which was being made to the Charity Tribunal. The third article had not misrepresented the Charity Commission’s publicly expressed concerns. Further, it did not state as fact that the Hall had breached charity law, it had distinguished this as a claim made by a former President of the Hall. There was no breach of Clause 1 in relation to the third article.

45. The fifth article had referred to the practice of members selling “allocations of tickets at inflated prices”, and had gone on to report that the Charity Commission had “previously expressed concern about the issue”. The Commission’s publicly expressed concern did not relate to the practice of selling of seats more generally, but to members of the council doing so. The fifth article had not made this distinction clear. This represented a failure to take care over the accuracy of the article, in breach of Clause 1 (i). The misrepresentation of the Commission’s concerns and further, the basis for the reference which was being made to the Charity Tribunal, was a significant inaccuracy, requiring correction to avoid a breach of 1 (ii).

46. The complainant had argued that the third article had given the misleading impression that it was not addressing the concerns raised by the Charity Commission. However, the head of the complainant’s internal review was not advocating for a move to a minority of seat-holding Members on its Council. This proposed recommendation was in spite of the “great concern” expressed publicly by the Chairman of the Commission regarding the current arrangements on the complainant’s Council. It was also in spite of the statement from the Commission which had been reported in the third article, which had made clear that this issue “should” be addressed. The complainant did not appear to be acting in accordance with the Commission’s recommendations; it was not misleading to report that the complainant was “defying” its “demands”.

47. The newspaper had sought comment from the Commission who had said that it would “assess its regulatory options” following the outcome of the complainant’s internal review. It was accepted that a statutory inquiry into the trust that runs the Hall was an option open to the Commission, should they choose to take it. Given the significant concern set out by the Commission, and its clear preference that Members should be a minority on the Council, it was not significantly misleading to characterise the possible imposition of one regulatory option as a “threat”. This aspect of the complaint did not breach Clause 1.

48. The second article had included the full statement from the Hall’s former President, setting out his concern that the fact that the lack of regulation governing Members’ selling their tickets was a “national disgrace”. The claim that “leaders” of the Hall had been described as a “national disgrace” – or “presiding over” a national disgrace- was not a misleading characterisation of his concerns, in circumstances where his full quote, setting out his concern about trustees’ conduct, was included in the article.

49. The Committee did not establish any significant inaccuracies in the fourth article’s discussion of ticket sales for the Last Night of the Proms. The columnist was entitled to focus on the specific issue of Members selling their tickets at high prices in order to illustrate the difficulty in accessing tickets for the night. In the context of an opinion piece, the columnist’s decision to focus on one reason why access was difficult for the event did not suggest that the public were being prevented from accessing the Last Night of the Proms primarily due to Members’ actions.

50. The complainant argued that reference to tickets “resales” suggested that Members were selling their tickets in a manner akin to the industry-wide issue of secondary ticket sales. The Committee disagreed. The articles had made clear that Members were obtaining a financial benefit from selling their tickets which they receive by virtue of their seat ownership. The term “resell” did not mischaracterise this arrangement and both “resell” and “sell” made clear the complainant’s position that Members were able to control the sale of their tickets. In these circumstances, while it was accurate to report that Members were “selling” their tickets, the Committee did not establish that reporting that tickets were being “re-sold” in the first instance was significant. While the Committee did not establish a breach of the Code on this point, it welcomed the newspaper’s decision to remove references to “re-selling” in the online articles.

51. The Committee noted the complainant’s position that the term “debenture holders” suggested that Members owned a lease over their seats. The use of the term “debenture holders” drew a distinction between individuals who owned seats privately, and seats owned by the charity. Where the articles had been clear that Members own their seats, the Committee did not consider that referring to them “debenture holders” was significantly misleading such as to require correction.

52. In response to the complainant’s request that it be given a fair opportunity to reply, the newspaper had offered an opportunity for the complainant to submit a letter for publication. The Committee considered that such an opportunity was fair, given the significant inaccuracy which it has established above. There was no breach of Clause 1(iii).

Conclusion

53. The complaint was upheld.

Remedial Action Required

54. Having upheld a breach of Clause 1, the Committee considered what remedial action should be required.

55. The newspaper had promptly offered a correction, prior to the complainant contacting IPSO, which had made reference to the 2015 ban and had set out that members are free to sell their tickets. It had also subsequently offered a correction which had made clear that the Charity Commission was concerned with the number of seat holders on the Board, not the issue of ticket resales. The correction which the newspaper had offered in final settlement of the complaint, and set out above, had made clear that the “ban” did not apply to members’ seats.

56. The correction which the newspaper had offered in final settlement of the complaint, referred to material which the Committee did not consider to be in breach of the Code. However, the Committee welcomed the fact that this wording provided clarification on the complainant’s position.

57. While the Committee acknowledged the complainant’s reasons not to do so, it was unfortunate that it had not accepted the previous wording which had been offered by the newspaper earlier-variations of which corrected the established inaccuracies- so that the misleading impression contained in the first and fifth articles could have been corrected as soon as possible. The newspaper had offered a number of corrections during the course of the complaint. These corrections had addressed all the points which the Committee had found to be in breach of the Code. The Committee suggested that the following wording should be published, which drew on the wording of the corrections which had previously been offered by the newspaper:

“In a number of recent articles, we said that the Royal Albert Hall allowed members who own Hall seats to resell their tickets for events and, on one occasion, incorrectly stated it allowed them to circumvent a ban on them doing so. The seats are privately owned, non-charitable property and the sales are not “resales”. The trustees point out that the ban did not apply to members’ seats, members are free to sell their tickets, and the Hall cannot control these sales. We also incorrectly said that the Charity Commission is concerned about people who own seats at the Royal Albert Hall selling their tickets at inflated prices, and had referred this matter to the Charity Tribunal. In fact, the Commission is not concerned about the issue of ticket resales by Members generally; it is concerned with the number of seat holders on the Board.

We are happy to clarify that the Charity Commission has not issued the Hall with an ultimatum or threatened a statutory inquiry and that there has been no breach of charity law for not revealing the value of the seats owned by the council members and the income received from ticket sales. The trustees deny they are presiding over a “national disgrace” and also say they are committed to working with the BBC to help them fight secondary sales of Proms tickets by non members. We apologise for our inaccuracies”.

58. In order to avoid a breach of Clause 1(ii) this wording should now be published. The print correction should be published in the newspaper’s corrections and clarifications column. The online correction should be published as a footnote to the articles.

Date complaint received: 01/08/2017

Date decision issued: 14/03/2018