The Press Council has considered a complaint about two articles headed "Clover wants ban on casino cars" and "Electric car club a shocking waste" in The Daily Telegraph on 28 August 2013. The two articles, and another on electric cars were published across a double page under a banner headline "Green Lunacy".
The first article concerned a proposal by Crown Casino to increase parking availability for its new hotel in Sydney’s Barangaroo precinct. It began: “She has no power over the Barangaroo precinct, but Sydney’s Lord Mayor is determined to stop cars parking there”. The accompanying photograph of Barangaroo had a similarly worded caption. It had been digitally altered to show the Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, dressed as a parking inspector and also to include a sign reading “No parking anytime”. The alteration was noted on the photograph.
The second article concerned the Sydney City Council paying for membership of a number of associations, including $12,400 for membership of an association described as “the Sustainable Business Council”. It was accompanied by a small photograph of an electric car.
Stephen Pate complained that the first article and accompanying photograph were inaccurate and unfair because the Lord Mayor and City Council were seeking to raise concerns about traffic congestion linked to the expected car park numbers for the casino, not to ban all parking at Barangaroo. He complained that the second article was inaccurate because the correct name of the relevant association is Sustainable Business Australia and, while the article referred to accusations of the Council “wasting ratepayers’ dollars on membership of an association that sells electric cars”, SBA does not sell electric cars, nor is it an “electric car club” as asserted in the headline.
The publication replied that anyone reading the whole of the first article would interpret the headline and first sentence as meaning that the Council and the Lord Mayor did not want an increase in parking spaces in Barangaroo, rather than they wanted to ban them entirely. In relation to the second article, it said the headline reflected the view of a Liberal member of the City Council although not attributed to him or anyone else in the article. It pointed out that when alerted by the complainant to the errors in the article it had published a clarification.
The Press Council’s Principles require that publications should take reasonable steps to ensure accuracy, fairness and balance, and that headlines and captions should fairly reflect the tenor of the accompanying material. They also specify that publications must enable readers of an article to recognise what is fact and what is opinion.
In relation to the first article, the Press Council considers that the word “ban” in the headline and the words “stop cars from parking” in both the first sentence and the caption to the photograph, as well as the “No parking anytime” sign, clearly conveyed the inaccurate message that the Lord Mayor opposed all parking in Barangaroo. It considers that nothing else in the article and accompanying material was sufficiently clear and prominent to correct or compensate for this inaccuracy. Accordingly, the complaint about the first article is upheld.
In relation to the second article, the Press Council considers that the publication did not take reasonable steps to avoid the errors identified by the complainant in the headline and the article. Accordingly, this aspect of the complaint is upheld.
Notes (not required for publication by the newspaper):
Mr Pate also complained that the headline of the second article expressed an opinion for which no source was provided in the article. The Council considered this was not a sufficiently clear and significant breach of its Principles to justify upholding this aspect of the complaint.
The clarification referred to by the publication in relation to the second article was published after the complaint had been made. However, the material may well have fallen short of the Council’s requirements for correction of serious inaccuracies.
Relevant Council Standards (not required for publication by the newspaper):
This adjudication applies the Council’s General Principle 1: “Publications should take reasonable steps to ensure reports are accurate, fair and balanced” and General Principle 6: “Publications are free to advocate their own views and publish the bylined opinions of others, as long as readers can recognise what is fact and what is opinion. Relevant facts should not be misrepresented or suppressed, headlines and captions should fairly reflect the tenor of an article and readers should be advised of any manipulation of images and potential conflicts of interest”.