The Daily Telegraph newspaper has been fined £30,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) after it sent thousands of emails on the day of the general election urging readers to vote Conservative.
The editor’s message asking hundreds of thousands of readers to oppose the most ‘leftwing Labour leader for a generation’ crossed a line, says watchdog.
Hours before Brits went to the polls, the right-wing newspaper’s editor Chris Evans sent an email to thousands of subscribers that read: “The Daily Telegraph urges its readers to vote Conservative.”
“Do we continue under the Conservatives with the open, enterprise-led economic approach that has underpinned our prosperity for nearly 40 years? Or do we revert to an old-style, ‘government-knows-best’ culture championed by the most left-wing Labour leader for a generation?” it added.
None of the paper’s readers gave consent to receiving this kind of marketing, yet the message was sent nonetheless.
‘Crossed the line’
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) found the Telegraph Media Group had breached rules in consent in the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003.
In a 16-page ruling, the ICO found the breach to be deliberate but said it had never happened before.
It added the newspaper “crossed the line” by promoting an election campaign.
“People may well perceive the paper’s editorial content to have a political bias, but when the Telegraph emailed people directly calling them to vote for a political party they crossed a line,” Steve Eckersley, head of enforcement at the ICO, said in a statement.
“People signed up to the Telegraph’s email service so they could catch up on the news or find out about subjects they were interested in. They did not expect to be told who they should be voting for,” he added.
The message was added to the daily alerts after a “last minute instruction from the editorial team,” according to the ICO.
The watchdog said “pressure” to distribute it quickly meant there was not enough time to consider whether the “appropriate permissions were in place.”
“These circumstances, along with the small number of complaints (17), were factors when deciding the fine,” the ICO added.
A YouGov poll of election voting by newspaper readership carried out in June found 69 percent of the Telegraph’s readers voted Tory.
It also found that 12 percent voted UKIP, 8 percent voted Labour, 8 percent voted for the Liberal Democrats and 1 percent voted Green Party.
— UK Politics Lover (@UKPoliticsLover) December 21, 2015
Commenting on the findings, former Daily Mirror editor Roy Greenslade said it is reasonable to argue that the right-wing press’s “propagandistic favoring” of anti-immigration and anti-EU policies adopted by Cameron in a “soft form” during his campaign contributed to his victory.
“I concede that it is not proof positive of the Tory-supporting press’s influence, but it is a perfectly feasible conclusion to reach and does lend some credence to my (much criticized) blogpost on 11 May, Yes, right-wing newspaper coverage did cause Ed Miliband’s downfall,” he wrote in the Guardian.