Telegraph pre-empts official figures release

Published: 16th Apr 2014

Official figures on unemployment and earnings were released at 9:30 this morning. Over 100 people knew in advance what the figures say: Ministers and other officials are given pre-release access. Newspapers, on the other hand, are not.

The Telegraph's front page this morning about the latest 'cost of living' indicators, however, might have led readers to believe that it too knew the contents of this morning's release:

"pay-rise figures 'show cost of living crisis is over'... wage rises are outstripping inflation the first time in six years, official figures will show today."

The newspaper appears to be overstating what are actually unofficial forecasts made by other organisations. Part of the article says official figures "will show", while other parts talk about what's "expected".

In January the Telegraph published a front page which implied it knew the next day's GDP figures, although the official figure turned out to be different from the one the paper predicted.

Today is a similar story: while the paper reported that "regular pay is rising at a rate of 1.8 per cent" this morning's release from the ONS actually reported that it was up by 1.4%.

People with 'pre-release access' must not — by law — disclose either the numbers or hints as to what they show, until the figures go public via the ONS. But as the Chair of the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee wrote back in January, when these kinds of reports are published "it is unsurprising that there is a suspicion amongst some that unauthorised briefings may have been given."

In response, the UK Statistics Authority reiterated its opposition to pre-release access and said privileged access had gone too far.

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