Monday 31 October 2011

PCC rules Daily Mail's new page 2 column satisfies requirements on 'due prominence' for corrections

The Press Complaints Commission has ruled that offers to correct factual errors in two front page articles in the Daily Mail in its new page two Clarifications and Corrections column were a sufficient form of remedial action under the Editors' Code, including the requirements of "due prominence".

The complaints were made by Full Fact, a fact-checking organisation, relating to two front page articles. The first article reported that a paper released at the G8 summit revealed that "Britain spends more on aid as a percentage of national income than any other country in the world - while British taxpayers suffer through an age of austerity".

In fact, while the UK paid out, as a proportion, more foreign aid than any other G8 country, five other countries (Norway, Luxembourg, Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands) paid more in percentage terms and the United States paid more in cash terms.

The second article reported on the state of Britain's schools, claiming that "violent behaviour in our classrooms has doubled in just a year". It claimed that 1,000 pupils had been excluded per school day in 2009/10, compared with 452 in 2008/09. Full Fact said that these figures were incorrect: the 1,000 figure was actually the total number of exclusions per day for the year 2008/09 including verbal abuse and threatening behaviour (not just for physical violence). The claim that violent behaviour had "doubled" in a year was inaccurate: the previous year, the equivalent figure was 1,103.

The Mail accepted there were errors in the two articles. It offered to publish corrections in both cases (in its page two Corrections column and online) in addition to amending the two online articles but Full Fact did not consider that correcting the record on page two satisfied the requirements of the Editors' Code in regard to "due prominence".

The Commission decided that "while the mistakes were sloppy, the issues were not personal to the complainant and had not caused personal harm. In addition, in the Commission's view, the errors did not render the coverage of either story to be wholly inaccurate, including on the front page" and page two corrections were sufficient in these cases.

Stephen Abell, director of the PCC, said: "The issue of ‘due prominence' as set out in the Editors' Code will never be an exact science and, as the adjudication makes clear, there will always be legitimate calls for newspapers and magazines to highlight corrections with greater clarity.

"It may be appropriate in some cases for a newspaper or magazine to publish a front page correction. However, whilst the errors in these two cases were unsatisfactory, the Commission judged that the publication of suitable corrections on page two was a sufficient offer which met the ‘due prominence' requirement of the Editors' Code".

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