Following the publication of an article in the Portadown Times on May 12015 headlined ‘Poll shows Sinn Fein are closing the gap’ Mike Nesbitt MLA complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation on behalf of the Ulster Unionist Party that the Portadown Times had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.
IPSO established a breach of the Editors’ Code and has required the Portadown Times to publish this decision as a remedy.
The article reported the findings of an “independent opinion poll” carried out by a “professional polling company” in the parliamentary constituency of Upper Bann. The article did not include the name of the company which had carried out the poll.
The complainant, the Leader of the UUP, said it was misleading for the article to report that the poll was “independent” and not to state that it had in fact been commissioned by the DUP.
The newspaper did not accept a breach of the Code. It had been provided with a copy of the opinion poll, which had been carried out by a “reputable and independent” polling company. It had been informed of the name of the company, the date on which the poll was carried out, and details of the methodology. It was a condition of publication that the article did not include the name of the polling company. While the newspaper was aware that the DUP had commissioned the poll, it had ben carried out professionally, using recognised methods.
The newspaper was entitled to make a commercial agreement with the polling company that its name not be published. In doing so, however, it was obliged to ensure that readers were not misled.
The Committee acknowledged that the newspaper had verified the methodology used to carry out the poll, and regarded it to be independent on that basis. Nonetheless, readers were entitled to receive accurate information about the source of the poll. In circumstances where the article had not made clear that the poll had been commissioned by the DUP, it was misleading in breach of Clause 1 to describe it as “independent”.