IPSO this week upheld a complaint made in July concerning a Daily Express story headlined “98% say no to EU deal”.
Posted on: 08 February 2017 07:41
"The Committee took the view that the article gave the impression that it was reporting the significant results of a representative poll."
Following the publication of an article in The Daily Express on 26 July 2016, headlined “98% say no to EU deal” in print, and “98 per cent say NO to EU deal: Forget talks with Brussels and quit NOW, urges new poll” online, Tony McDonald complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Express breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. The complaint was upheld, and IPSO required the newspaper to publish this adjudication.
The complainant said that said that the headline was misleading because it did not make clear that the 98% figure had come from a survey, rather than representing the view of the public at large. He said that a genuine poll could not have found 98% of the population who would agree with the question asked in the poll, and that a responsible poll would have ensured a representative sample.
The newspaper denied that the article was misleading. It said that the headline needed to be read with the text of the article, from which readers would have understood that the 98% result came from a phone survey of its readers. The survey question was “Should UK end all talk of deals and quit the EU now?”, and was printed on page 7 of the previous day’s edition of the newspaper; readers had to pay to register their response to the question, and were asked to give a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.
IPSO’s Complaints Committee did not accept the newspaper’s argument that because it ran a phone poll every day it was clear that the “poll” referred to was a survey of its readers. The Committee also took into account the fact that the poll had been presented as a significant political event, putting pressure on the Government to leave the EU as soon as possible, and including responses to it from senior political figures. In all the circumstances, the Committee took the view that the article gave the impression that it was reporting the significant results of a representative poll carried out by a third-party for the publication. In fact, the poll was conducted through a premium rate phoneline, which allowed a self-selecting sample of the newspaper’s readers to express their views. In these circumstances, the manner in which the poll was presented, was a breach of Clause 1. The online article, which reported that a “new Daily Express online poll” had revealed that 98% of people had said no to an EU deal, breached Clause 1 in the same manner as the print version.
Remedial Action Required
In circumstances where the cumulative effect of the coverage had given a misleading impression of how the poll had been conducted, and the newspaper had not taken any steps to mitigate the effects of the breach by offering to publish a correction, the appropriate remedy was the publication of an upheld adjudication, said IPSO.
The headline, sub-headline and opening paragraphs of the story, which appeared on the newspaper’s front page, all contributed to the significantly misleading impression that the poll had been conducted in accordance with the usual practices of political polls; as a result, the Committee required the newspaper to publish a reference to the adjudication on the front page, directing readers to the full adjudication, which should be published on page two. The wording of the front-page reference and the headline to the adjudication should be agreed with IPSO in advance, or in the absence of agreement, as determined by the Complaints Committee. They should refer to IPSO, include the title of the newspaper, and make clear that the complaint was upheld. The front-page reference should appear in the same size font, and overall taking up no less space, than the sub-headline which appeared on the front page under complaint. The reference should also appear within a border distinguishing it from other editorial content on the page.
As a misleading headline had also been published on the newspaper’s website, the adjudication should also be published online. A link to the full adjudication should appear on the homepage for 24 hours; it should then be archived in the usual way. Should the newspaper continue to publish the article online, without amendment, in light of this decision, it should publish the adjudication in full, beneath the headline. If amended, a link to the adjudication should be published with the article, explaining that it was the subject of an IPSO adjudication.
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