County show results hit by false fear of Data Act

Staff at the Western Daily Press had to pull four pages of an eight-page supplement because country show results were withheld at the last minute by organisers who feared they could be in breach of the Data Protection Act.

The WDP had promised readers full lists of results from the Royal Bath & West Show, but was told by organisers on press day that some results were not going to be given out.

It followed an incident at another show when an entrant had complained that his name was in the paper against his wishes, so organisers had asked all those taking part to state whether they wanted publicity or not.

On the day the results were due to be passed to the paper, organisers were still sifting through the entry forms to remove the details of those who wished to remain anonymous.

Legal advisers to the show recommended it release the names of the winners of the livestock categories as they are always happy to receive publicity, but to restrict information on those in the flowers, honey and jam categories.

This is the latest in a series of incidents in which the act has been blamed for restricting the flow of information. They have ranged from the police withholding details about victims of crime and schools denying newspapers the names of children photographed in sporting competitions.

WDP editor Terry Manners said: “John Lennon always said, ‘life is what happens to you when you’re busy making plans’. That’s so true with papers. They are not a perfect science.

“The Bath & West Show results provided something of a nightmare for us because of the Data Protection Act. Perhaps we should have rung the bells on it but certainly someone, somewhere did not do their homework. As for throwing the paper upside-down at the last minute, that’s the fun of it, although my loyal lads on the backbench might not agree.”

WDP deputy editor Chris Cowley said: “If the organisers didn’t provide information on disk, but we sat by the side of the show and wrote all the winners down like we used to, then we could have got round this problem.”

By Mary Stevens

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