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IPSO raps news website over racing track story

The press watchdog has rapped a regional news website over an inaccuracy in a story about a proposed new motor racing circuit.

Wales Online reported that two motorsport businessmen had urged the Welsh Government not to provide a public loan guarantee of more than £200m for the Circuit of Wales project, with one of them describing it as the “biggest white elephant the South Wales Valleys have ever seen.”

The other businessman predicted that motorsport teams would not pay the daily hire fee of the circuit, and suggested that without this rental income the project would be unviable.

The project’s frontman Michael Carrick and Aventa Partners complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation under Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, claiming that the site’s reporting of the project’s business model was inaccurate.

An artist's impression of the proposed Circuit of Wales

An artist’s impression of the proposed Circuit of Wales

Mr Carrick and Aventa said that renting the track to teams for testing and practice sessions was just 2pc of the project’s targeted revenue, something which it said was made clear in the project brochure and Wikipedia entry for the project.

Wales Online responded that the Circuit of Wales project is a matter of enormous public interest to the people of Wales, stating that it had set out the views of supporters of the project in previous stories.

It acknowledged that renting of the track was a small percentage of the project’s targeted revenue, but said that in pragmatic terms, the track was the centrepiece of the project and if it did not exist, visitors would not come.

IPSO found that Wales Online did not dispute the complainant’s position that such track-related activity made up just 2pc of the project’s projected revenue and that the failure to verify this position against information about the project already in the public domain, particularly where the complainant had not been approached for comment prior to publication, represented a failure to take care over the accuracy of the article.

The complaint was upheld, and the full adjudication can be read here.

IPSO also recently dealt with the case of Martin McHugh vs Glasgow’s Sunday Herald, which related to a story about a “contracts scandal” surrounding North Lanarkshire Council’s procurement and contract management arrangements.

The article explained that a report written by “corruption investigators” had referred to Mr McHugh’s company Taymore.

Complaining under Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, Mr McHugh expressed concern that, in circumstances where the auditor’s report had found that there had been no wrong doing on his part, the references to him in an article which reported on allegations of corruption gave the misleading impression that he, and his company, had been involved in corrupt practices.

The Herald responded that the article was a fair and accurate account of the auditor’s report had concluded that Taymore had received extended contracts which had been awarded by council officials in breach of the aauthority’s tendering process, adding it had reported prominently the finding there was no evidence that the complainant or his company had obtained a direct benefit as a result of relationships with members of the council.

The complaint was not upheld, and the full adjudication can be read here.

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