Ofcom rejects complaint from Lord Ashcroft over reporting of his tax status

Ofcom’s judgement summary reads:

On 17 December 2009, BBC Radio 4 broadcast an edition of Today, its early morning news and current affairs programme, which included an item looking back at the preceding day’s activities in Parliament and discussed questions put to Ms Harriet Harman MP (who was standing in for the Prime Minister) during Prime Minister’s Question Time.

Harbottle & Lewis complained to Ofcom on behalf of Lord Ashcroft that the programme wrongly and unfairly stated that during Prime Minister’s Question Time the Liberal Democrats had accused Lord Ashcroft of tax evasion and therefore implied that he was guilty of a criminal offence. Harbottle & Lewis said Lord Ashcroft was not given an appropriate opportunity to respond to this serious allegation of criminal wrongdoing.

Ofcom considered the case and concluded that the report provided a fair reflection of the discussion during Prime Minister’s Question Time and, taken as whole, made clear that, while the Liberal Democrats had initially raised a question about tax evasion, they had not in fact accused Lord Ashcroft of tax evasion. Instead the report correctly and fairly presented the fact that the Liberal Democrats had accused Lord Ashcroft of avoiding paying tax in the UK on overseas earnings. Ofcom found that the report’s presentation of this matter was fair and did not amount to an allegation of criminal wrongdoing which would have required, in the interests of fairness, an opportunity to respond.

Ofcom therefore found no unfairness to Lord Ashcroft.

The full judgement starts on page 19 of the latest Ofcom newsletter.

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