Statement on ITV News's story about newspapers and Operation Motorman

28 March 2012

ITV News commissioned Full Fact to audit their analysis of the Operation Motorman records, which was broadcast today.

Our brief was to ensure that they had reached accurate but conservative estimates of certain types of work that ITV News has described as "potentially illegal," commissioned by newspapers from the private investigator Steve Whittamore.

Full Fact:

  • Broke ITV News's analysis into its component steps
  • Automated the complex calculations that ITV News's had done manually and corrected their results where necessary
  • Reviewed the assumptions ITV News had made
  • Asked ITV News to explain the basis and justification for each assumption, some of which were revised either at our suggestion or by ITV News on their own initiative following our questions
  • Reviewed a random sample of the decisions made about individual records to satisfy ourselves that they were being made on a reasonable basis

The records ITV News analysed were messy, with misspellings, incomplete fields and other inconsistencies hampering the analysis. Our advice to ITV News was that they had made conservative assumptions and reached a reasonable interpretation of the data. We further advised that that was the best that could be achieved given the quality of the data they were working with.

Full Fact is committed to publishing the sources for the work we do so our readers can reach their own conclusions rather than simply putting blind faith in our work. In this case the source material cannot be published because it contains a lot of sensitive personal information.

About Full Fact

  • Full Fact is an independent factchecking organisation. We promote informed and informative public debate.
  • We seek corrections to inaccurate claims made by those in public life and our work has led to corrections and retractions from government ministers, political parties, interest groups, most national newspapers and other media.
  • Full Fact has been heavily involved in the Leveson Inquiry, speaking at the opening seminars and giving evidence. Our interest in the Leveson Inquiry is limited to questions of accuracy and we have argued that the Inquiry has focused too much on intrusion at the expense of accuracy. We have no interest in ITV News's story beyond our auditing role.
  • Full Fact accepts appropriate commissions when approached. Commissioned work currently makes up less than five per cent of our income and none of our funders has any role in our editorial decision making. If you are interested in commissioning research or quality assurance work from Full Fact, please contact Will Moy on or 020 7242 3883.

For further information about ITV News's story, please contact ITV News themselves.

For media enquiries, please contact Laura Brander on 020 7430 4108 or

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