Peter Oborne: Press regulator to investigate Daily Telegraph

Oborne accused the Telegraph of refusing to run stories about the scandal enveloping HSBC because of concerns over advertising

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The Independent Online

Britain’s press regulator will examine claims that the Daily Telegraph allowed commercial pressures to dictate editorial decisions, its chairman has confirmed.

Sir Alan Moses, the head of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso), said Peter Oborne’s dramatic resignation as the Telegraph’s chief political commentator over its alleged lack of coverage of the HSBC tax evasion scandal highlighted the “fundamental importance of credibility” among the press.

He told MPs on the House of Commons culture, media and sport select committee that the regulator was seeking to get information from Mr Oborne, the Telegraph and others with the aim of creating a “meaningful rule within a code” on editorial independence.

However, Sir Alan added that it would be hard to enforce a separation between commercial interests and editorial judgment.

Oborne attacked the Telegraph's coverage of the HSBC tax scandal (AFP)

“It is very difficult to devise a rule which says ‘you are in breach if you fail to publish something’,” he said.

In his lengthy resignation letter, published online last week, Mr Oborne accused the Telegraph of refusing to run stories about the scandal enveloping HSBC because of concerns over advertising, accusing the paper’s management of perpetrating a “fraud on its readers”.

In response, his former employer issued a statement saying that the “distinction between advertising and our award-winning editorial operation has always been fundamental to our business”, adding: “We utterly refute any allegation to the contrary.”

Independent Press Standards Organisation chairman Sir Alan Moses (PA)

Sir Alan said that while Ipso had not received any official complaints in the wake of Mr Oborne’s resignation, the potential blurring of lines between advertising and editorial content was an issue the regulator “should look at”.

A spokesman for Ipso said the concerns would be discussed at a meeting next month. “There have been no complaints to Ipso regarding the HSBC, Oborne and Telegraph story. However, the Ipso board have agreed to discuss the issues raised at its next meeting in March,” he said.