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Complainant Name:
Mike Jempson

Clauses Noted: 1

Publication: The Drum

Complaint:

Mike Jempson, Director of the MediaWise Trust, complained to the Press Complaints Commission that an article headlined "EU puts 2.3m into ‘Mediadem' project as it seeks a Europe-wide regulation over journalists", published by The Drum on 14 April 2013, was inaccurate and misleading in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors' Code of Practice.

The complaint was not upheld.

The article reported on claims published by The Sunday Telegraph that a number of groups supporting "state-backed regulation of the press" had received European Union funding for projects relating to media regulation and accountability. While the complainant raised a number of general concerns about the accuracy of the coverage, including its characterisation of the European Commission's policies in this area, he made clear that his complaint to the PCC was focussed on the issues that directly related to himself and to MediaWise. The Commission considered his complaint on this basis.

The complainant said that the publication should have checked the claims with primary sources before republishing them. He denied the claims that MediaAcT, an EU programme, had "channelled about 100,000 of European funds directly" to MediaWise and explained that MediaWise had ceased to be the UK partner for the MediaAcT project prior to the dispersal of EU funds and that it had, therefore, never received money direct from the EU. The complainant objected to a description of MediaWise as an "ally of Hacked off", noting that the organisations are independent. He also denied that MediaWise had been founded (originally as PressWise) by former MP Clive Soley, now Lord Soley.

The publication said its article made clear that it was simply reporting claims published in The Sunday Telegraph, on a subject of public interest. Its readers would be interested in the editorial line taken on this subject by a major Sunday newspaper, and a link to the original article had been included as part of its report. The complainant had already used its "comments" feature to express his views on the article, and the publication expressed willingness to accommodate any further comments he might have; this included a suggestion that the complainant might publish a blog post on its website explaining the work of MediaWise. Because it had relied on material from The Sunday Telegraph, it also offered to publish the wording of any correction offered by that newspaper in relation to the complaint about the allocation of MediaAcT funds.

Decision:
Not Upheld

Adjudication:

Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors' Code of Practice states that (i) "the press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information" and that (ii) "a significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion, once recognised, must be corrected promptly and with due prominence." Clause 1(i) encompasses both the steps taken to ensure accuracy during the newsgathering process, and the care taken over the presentation of information when published to ensure that readers are not misled.

The Commission considered as an initial matter the complainant's concern on accuracy grounds regarding the republication of the claims in The Sunday Telegraph. The article had made clear that it was reporting on coverage published by The Sunday Telegraph and had provided a link to this in the text. Given the presentation of the article - which had emphasised that the claims, particularly in relation to the funding of MediaWise, were unverified allegations - the Commission did not establish a failure to take care over the accuracy of the coverage in this regard.

However, The Drum retained its responsibility to ensure that readers would not be significantly misled by its coverage. While the claims about MediaWise's funding had been presented as allegations, and had not contained any suggestion of impropriety, the Commission had established, as part of its consideration regarding the complaint against The Sunday Telegraph, the claim that EU funding was directly channelled to MediaWise to be significantly inaccurate. It was therefore necessary for the publication to have offered to correct this point, as it had done. The Commission made clear that a failure to publish the correction promptly on receipt of its decision would constitute a breach of the Code.

Turning to the complainant's remaining concerns, in circumstances where the complainant said MediaWise had "no problem being associated" with Hacked Off, the Commission did not consider that the reference to its being a "key Hacked Off ally" was significantly misleading. The article had not suggested that the organisations were not independent of each other. Finally, in relation to the complaint about Lord Soley's being a founder of MediaWise, the Commission did not consider that this point was significantly misleading in light of his involvement, as highlighted on the MediaWise website.

Date Published:
26/11/2013



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