By Evan Harris
Yesterday IPSO publicised its ruling on a complaint by Ivan Lewis MP about a front page news story headlined “Labour grandees round on ‘anti-Semite’ Corbyn,” which reported falsely that Mr Lewis had accused Mr Corbyn of being anti-semitic.
Mr Lewis had said
“Some of [Mr Corbyn’s] stated political views are a cause for serious concern. At the very least he has shown poor judgment in expressing support for and failing to speak out against people who have engaged in…anti-Semitic rhetoric. It saddens me to have to say to some on the left of British politics that anti-racism means zero tolerance of anti-Semitism, no ifs, and no buts”.
The Telegraph transformed this into a front page story stating that Mr Lewis has accused Mr Corbyn of being anti-semitic and had attacked his “anti-semitic rhetoric”.
Although the error was plain and obvious the Telegraph did not accept that the article was an inaccurate summary of Mr Lewis’ views. It offered a correction which was not acceptable to Mr Lewis and, 5 weeks after the original publication IPSO ruled against the Telegraph.
As usual an error in a front page headline was not “corrected” with equivalent prominence. In fact, despite IPSO boasting it had the power to require :”up front corrections” (whatever they are) it has never required any newspaper to correct any story with equivalent prominence especially when it comes to the front page.
For the very reason that front page errors and distortions are so important to correct with equal prominence (that they are seen by many more people than read the newspaper itself), the newspapers object to doing so. IPSO sides with the newspapers on their desire to bury or at least camouflage corrections.
There have been many cases of front page stories which, even on the rare occasions when IPSO rules against the newspaper, are only corrected in small print on an inside page. In a handful of cases of front-page headline errors, IPSO has also required the newspaper to publish a small front-page snippet about the correction telling readers they can read the detail on an inside page.
In each of cases, IPSO produce a press release promoting the :”front-page correction:” in the hope that they can spin this small gesture at equivalence as some kind of effective remedy. This is such an example. As can be seen by the compare and contrast the prominence of the correction is a fraction.
It should also be noted that on this occasion – where the Telegraph refused to admit an obvious error, and so ensured that the correction would appear more than 5 weeks later –the Telegraph did not publish the adjudication (or even link to it online) so its readers could see their newspaper’s absurd denial. The correction merely said
CORRECTION: This article originally stated that Ivan Lewis had accused Jeremy Corbyn of being ‘anti-Semitic’, and had attacked his “anti-Semitic rhetoric”. In fact, Mr Lewis did not directly accuse Mr Corbyn of being anti-Semitic. He said that Mr Corbyn had “shown very poor judgment in expressing support for and failing to speak out against people who have engaged… in anti-Semitic rhetoric”. This correction has been published following a ruling by the Independent Press Standards Organisation.
The failure of IPSO to require the telegraph to publish the adjudication or a summary of it – is itself a breach of the Editors’ Code of Practice which provides that
Any publication judged to have breached the Code must publish the adjudication in full and with due prominence agreed by the Regulator, including headline reference to the Regulator.
What is remarkable is that IPSO has been set up with its regulations (number 22 here[pdf]) giving it the discretion (which it uses regularly) to disapply this provision of the Code. No normal regulator would allow those its regulates to write its rules in such a way that the standards Code it applies can be disapplied at will.
So, no publication of the adjudication and no apology from the Telegraph for an unjustified accusation of denigrating of anti-semitism. Lord Justice Leveson said that members of an effective and independent regulator would need to be contractually obliged to publish apologies when required by the regulator. The press said we should not have to apologise when we don’t mean it. Most victims of press abuse would prefer an insincere apology after a finding of breach than a continued protestation of innocence.
Any proper effective regulator would have required
1. an apology and correction of equal prominence
2. the publication of the adjudication and a link to it on the online version of the article;
3. a statement at the top of the online article that it has been corrected (they have managed to do this before, it is pretty basic).
On all three points IPSO have failed again.
No wonder Public Opinion polls conducted by YouGov show that the public have no faith in this sham regulator.