Frank Field MP: PCC ruling

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Mr Frank Field MP complained to the Press Complaints Commission that a front-page report of an interview that he had given to The Independent published on 9 June 2000 was inaccurately headlined "Blair 'all spin and little delivery' - Field" in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code of Practice. He also complained that the subsequent publication of a letter from him was not an adequate remedy under the Code.

The complaint was upheld.

The complainant said that the headline wrongly suggested that he had stated the words in inverted commas. He had not said those words and requested that a "small correction and apology" be published on the front page, and that a letter be published. The first request was rejected by the newspaper, which did, however, publish a letter from the complainant denying that he had made the remark. The complainant considered this inadequate as there was no acknowledgement of the error from the newspaper itself. The newspaper accepted that the headline should not have been used but did not consider that it substantially misrepresented his views as set out in the article itself. They argued that the error was therefore only slight and the remedial action in publishing a letter from the complainant was suitable in the circumstances. The complainant denied this and insisted that the headline was damagingly misleading.

The Commission agreed with both parties that an error had occurred which warranted correction. However, Clause 1(iii) of the Code requires that an apology be published whenever appropriate and the Commission considered that, in such a case where a clear mistake had been made, the newspaper should have apologised. The publication of the complainant's letter was not considered to be a sufficient remedy under the Code.

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