The decision is the first time IPSO has ruled on the newly revised Clause 1 of the Editors’ Code of Practice, which makes specific reference to “headlines not supported by the text” as an example of inaccurate, misleading or distorted information which the press must take care not to publish.
In spelling out its judgement, the IPSO Complaints Committee recognised the importance of headlines as a feature of tabloid journalism but believed that on this occasion there was nothing in the headline, or the manner in which it was presented on the newspaper’s front page, to suggest that this was the newspaper’s conjecture, hyperbole, or not to be read literally. Rather, the headline contained a serious and unsupported allegation that the Queen had fundamentally breached her constitutional obligations in the context of a vitally important national debate.
In considering the proportionality of remedial action, the Committee had regard for the prominence of the breach, the significance of the headline claim and the need to provide an effective remedy. Additionally, it noted the fact that the newspaper had not taken any steps to mitigate the effects of the breach by offering to publish a correction.
The Committee concluded that it was appropriate that its adjudication be published in full on page two and that the headline “IPSO RULES AGAINST SUN’S QUEEN HEADLINE” must also be published on the newspaper’s front page [to a size and scale agreed with IPSO].
Commenting on the adjudication, IPSO Chief Executive Matt Tee said: “Clause 1 of the Editors’ Code was amended in January 2016 with specific reference to “headlines not supported by the text”. The Editors’ Code Committee clearly wanted IPSO to pay close attention to the use of headlines, something we have done in the period since the new code was issued. The Sun’s headline was significantly misleading and represented a failure to take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information.”
He added: “IPSO will continue to carry out our work without fear or favour and will continue to support those who feel wronged by the press, whoever they are.”