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Paper cleared of wrongdoing over front page 'rant'

Claims that a front page opinion piece by Herald Express editor Brendan Hanrahan was “inaccurate, misleading and a distortion”, have been rejected by the Press Complaints Commission.

Earlier this year the south coast editor called for all 36 Torbay councillors to resign over their increased Town Hall allowances – prompting a complaint to the industry watchdog from Lib Dem councillor Ruth Pentney.

The councillor alleged that by using the front page the editor had “abused his position as a reporter of news to indulge in a ‘rant’ against elected members”.

She said: “It is an exercise of power without responsibility, which left councillors powerless to respond.”

But the newspaper has now been told that it did nothing wrong as it made a clear distinction between comment and fact.

Concluding that there had been no breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy), the PCC told the newspaper: “Although the contentious piece was published on the front page, it was clearly marked as editorial opinion.

“You had a right to be partisan in your views and, by labelling it as comment, readers would not have been misled into believing that this was the only view to be taken about councillors of Torbay.”

The PCC also made a similar ruling into a claim that the Office for National Statistics had not placed the Bay last on a list of average weekly wages.

The councillor insisted the body did not place average wages in rank order.

But the PCC observed: “The Herald Express produced evidence in the form of undisputed published comment from a local councillor and a previous article to suggest this was indeed the case.”

And addressing other points in dispute, the watchdog added: “We do not consider that any were of such significance as to detract from the main focus of the article which was to make clear that, in the Herald Express’s opinion, the councillors’ allowances were too generous, the rises in Council Tax were indefensible and all local councillors should resign.

“Taking all these points into consideration, the Commission concluded that no breach of the Code was raised by the complaint.”

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