Picture: LSE

The Daily Mail has once again won the dubious award of being the most unreliable paper in Britain, having been sanctioned more times by press regulator IPSO than any other title.

The right-wing tabloid is the worst offender for the third year in a row, chalking up 28 offences in 2018. This puts it ten clear of The Times, which moves up three places to 2nd with 18 sanctions. The Sun stays at 3rd with 16, then the Daily Mirror with 10, the Daily Express and the Daily Telegraph with 7 each, and the Daily Star with 4.

Almost all of the offences involved inaccurate reporting. Four of the Mail’s and two of The Sun’s violations didn’t involve accuracy of reporting and were against other clauses of the Editors’ Code of Practice (e.g. invasion of privacy, harassment).

Although the Mail is the worst performer, it has improved on 2017 in terms of number of offences. Last year, the paper broke the rules 50 times. The bad news for the Rothermere-owned publication is that its total for this year would still have placed it first in both 2016 and 2017.

In terms of total number of sanctions, the top seven reached 90 between them across 2018. This is slightly better than 2017’s total of 115, but up on the 62 offences committed in 2016.

Perhaps the most notable thing about this year’s figures beyond the Daily Mail’s hat-trick of titles is the rise of The Times to second spot. Rupert Murdoch’s other big-selling daily is often overshadowed by The Sun when it comes to misreporting and dodgy journalism and is seen by some as a more respectable publication than the more popular tabloids. But the paper seems to have really come into its own as a bad performer over the last twelve months or so.

This has included high profile offences such as misreporting on the Tower Hamlets fostering case as well as a couple of inaccurate articles on transgender issues.

Back in 2016, The Times was only the 7th worst performing IPSO-regulated paper with only 3 sanctions against it. Last year it was up to 5th with 8 sanctions. This means that the paper is more than doubling the number of offences it’s committing year on year. It is the only paper that has grown consistently worse in terms of number of sanctions over the last three years.

This means that, although the Daily Mail tops the charts as an individual offender, the two big Murdoch-owned dailies (The Sun and The Times) combined have now overtaken the Mail with 34 sanctions to 28. Last year, the Mail committed twice as many violations as The Sun and The Times put together (50 to 25).

All in all, these statistics show that Britain’s mainstream press has a long way to go until it can hope to be seen as a trusted news source, having been ranked bottom of 33 European countries in a study on public trust in 2016. They also highlight how IPSO’s sanctions against inaccurate reporting are still not having much of an effect in terms of deterrence. While papers can get away with publishing a small correction notice buried away in the middle of the publication, or sneaked out at midnight on the website, there’s no real impetus for improvement. Perhaps it’s time for the regulator to show some teeth?

Examples of corrections in 2018


Originally published on the front page on 15 December 2017. Following an IPSO ruling, the paper was made to run a corrections article in July 2018 on page 4 with a reference to the correction on the front page.

The paper reported in its front page story that an Iraqi man “caught red-handed with a bomb” had been awarded £33,000 in compensation “because our soldiers kept him in custody for too long”. In fact, the man in question was found not guilty and the reason he was awarded compensation was for unlawful and degrading treatment while in custody (he was beaten by guards) as well as unlawful detention.


Originally published as a front page article on 30 August 2017, following articles on the same case that had been published on 28 and 29 August. Following an IPSO ruling, the paper issued a correction article in April 2018 on page 2 with a short reference to the correction on the front page.

The paper was found to have distorted the facts around a court case to have a foster child placed with her maternal grandmother. The article implied that the judge ruled to remove the Christian child from the Muslim foster carers and place her with her maternal grandmother due to the foster placement (arranged by Tower Hamlets Council) being culturally inappropriate. However, the foster placement was only a temporary arrangement until council assessments on the grandmother had been completed.


Article originally published on 22 April 2018. Correction issued after IPSO mediation on 17 June 2018.

Running with the sub-heading “Fury as prison bosses served non-Halal sausages to Levi Bellfield and other prison lags”, the story claimed that killer Bellfield, who had converted to Islam and changed his name to Yusuf Rahim, had been served pork sausages and was considering taking legal action because of this. But the story was found to be false when prison menu cards revealed that Bellfield had not even ordered sausages.


Article originally published on 9 September 2018. Correction issued after IPSO mediation.

The article claimed that a study by Havant and South Downs College had spent £34k of a lottery grant on researching into the origins of the Portsmouth accent but had found nothing. In fact, research into the accent origins formed only part of the study. The money was also spent on funding general student research into local history.


Originally published on the express.co.uk website on 24 November 2017. Headline changed after 15 minutes to “London terror: Oxford Street shoppers told ‘stay inside’ as police respond like terror attack”. Following an IPSO investigation, a corrections footnote was added to the article on 23 February 2018.

Following an incident around Oxford Circus in November 2017, the paper published online breaking news coverage stating that a gunman was loose on Oxford Street and that shots had been fired. This was based on unsubstantiated rumours, and 20 minutes later the police issued an official statement saying there was no evidence of any shots being fired.

*The Daily Mail is used here to include the Daily Mail, the Mail on Sunday and the Mail Online. Likewise, the Daily Express is used to include the Daily Express, the Sunday Express and the Express Online, and so on. 

**IPSO rulings include both breaches of the Editors’ Code of Practice, where no agreement between the parties can be reached and IPSO has to intervene, and Resolution Statements, where the publication admits it has breached the code and offers to make a statement/concession that is to the satisfaction of the complainant. 

***IPSO (Independent Press Standards Organisation) is the national press regulator for the majority of the mainstream press publications in the UK. There are some publications (e.g. The Guardian, The Independent) that chose not to sign up when IPSO was created in 2014. 

****All figures were taken on 1 January 2019. 

Don’t like what you’re seeing in the press? If you see an article you’re unhappy with, you can email the press regulators at inquiries@ipso.co.uk to voice your concerns. If enough complaints are received, they will have to look into it.

Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.


  1. Elodie says:

    Ironic that an article about dodgy journalism includes no right-of-reply from any of the titles mentioned, or indeed Ipso itself. Pot Kettle Black


  2. Reblogged this on grainetoroot and commented:
    Those tabloids are the worst in their lies out of all of Europe. A fine example of why the UK is in such a broken state, when xenophobia and racism is fuelled by such atrocious lies that the Tory government allows to be publish for their convenience.


  3. Rose Wild says:

    The Times had four sanctions, and The Sunday Times five. You’ve included resolved complaints where no breach was established. Even adding together the two separate newspapers (and calling them The Times), the total number of sanctions is nine, not 18.
    Here are the Sunday Times rulings: https://www.ipso.co.uk/rulings-and-resolution-statements/?expression=&publications=875&clauses=&outcomes=&startDate=2018%2F2%2F01&endDate=2019%2F2%2F28


    1. Yes, resolved complaints are included and that is mentioned in the article. These are still corrections – it’s just that the paper has admitted a wrongdoing and agreed to correct itself before IPSO completes its investigation. The correction is published in the paper, usually at the foot of the article in question. The total number of breaches/resolutions for the Times and Sunday Times is 18.


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