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Daily Mail clarifies misleading foreign aid front page

by Luke Lythgoe | 18.04.2017

The Daily Mail has printed a clarification of its front-page splash on April 6. The headline read: “Foreign aid: now it soars by £1.2bn” while the sub-heading read: “UK’s payouts surge to £13bn… because farcical EU rules add prostitution and drug-dealing to official economic figures”.

Daily Mail, front page, Thursday 6 April

Daily Mail, front page, Thursday 6 April

As InFacts wrote at the time, this was misleading for two main reasons. First, prostitution and drug-dealing (part of the so-called “black economy”) only played a tiny part in the recalculation of GNI, and thus the UK’s GNI-linked foreign aid commitments. Second, the Mail had ignored the international dimension – these weren’t solely “EU rules” but changes agreed at UN level over how countries’ GNI would be calculated worldwide.

On receiving InFacts’ complaint, the Mail was quick to change the headline and summary of its online article, including a footnote explaining the change. The online headline and sub-heading now reads: “Foreign aid soars by £1.2 BILLION: UK’s payouts surge to £13bn… and now farcical EU rules even add prostitution and drug-dealing to official economic figures” (our bold to highlight changes).

The online introduction has changed to read: “The foreign aid budget soared by £1.2billion last year – in part because EU rules have added prostitution and drugs to national statistics.”

Following further dialogue with InFacts – during which it was pointed out that the global dimension of the changes and minor impact of the black economy were still not obvious – the Mail added a summary bullet point at the top of its online article, reading:

  • £685million was due to accounting changes which now give weight to activities including illegal ‘black economy’

The paper also edited its first online bullet point to read:

  • Spending on overseas aid went up £1.2bn in 2016 after EU accounting revisions and growth in economy

A further change was made in the online article’s information box, addressing the worldwide nature of the changes. The altered paragraph reads: “The rise is partly due to economic growth but also to a change in the way GNI is calculated following new standards agreed among EU states which have already been adopted by the US and other countries.

Finally, the Mail printed the following clarification on page two of its paper on April 14. As InFacts has noted in the past, it is virtually impossible to get papers to give adequate prominence to their corrections and clarifications.

Corrections and Clarifications, Daily Mail, April 14

We also asked the Mail to remove the word “farcical” in front of EU rules. It refused on the basis that, under the Editors’ Code of Practice, “the press has an overarching right to be partisan”. We leave it to readers to determine whether rules that have been agreed at the United Nations and adopted by the US and other countries can be fairly described as farcical.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

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