Editor Overlooks Embargo Period: City Loses Subsidy Worth Millions
The investment backlog in cities and municipalities is immense. They usually can’t manage renovations in the area of infrastructure or cultural institutions alone and have to get subsidies. The city of Ulm in southern Germany relied on such a subsidy, but the financial injection they thought was already secured fell victim to the overzealousness of a local online editor.
News About Subsidy Published Too Early
For years, cities and communities with limited resources have been struggling to remain liveable for their residents. It’s almost impossible to distribute the available funds in a way that covers everyone. Subsidies awarded regularly by the federal government for suitable projects can often remedy the situation. Ulm, a city in southern German that has long wanted to renovate its museum, also applied for financial support for such a project. The chances of success were good and the subsidy only needed official approval. So a member of the Federal Parliament from the city saw no reason not to email a press release about the good news about the grant for the renovation in advance to journalists - including the city’s online portal.
At first glance, it sounds like routine journalistic work. As usual, the responsible editor read the message together with all the other press releases he received - but he overlooked an important reference to a so-called embargo period that was emphasized several times. If a press release has an embargo period, its content may only be made public at a very specific point in time. The reason for this measure is usually that the person responsible for the notification would like to gain some advantage in terms of the timing and content of the release. Premature publication would of course cause problems for their intentions.
Embargo Not Observed, No Subsidy
The editor published the report on the supposedly secured subsidy straight away. But this mistake not only caused him trouble in political circles, it also had drastic consequences for the city: The subsidy for the museum renovation was permanently lost. How could a premature press release have such far-reaching consequences?
The answer is actually quite simple: In order not to jeopardise the subsidy for his city, the editor should have waited for the formal decision of the Berlin budget committee on the programme for the “Renovation of municipal facilities in the areas of sport, youth and culture”. The committee handled 150 applications that were already as good as approved, including the one from the city of Ulm. The district representatives of the cities were already informed about the forthcoming positive decision.
Tip: The greatest danger related to written warnings faced by media workers still is the violations of rights. Find out how to avoid them in our article The 5 Most Common Infringements and how to Avoid them.
Tough Decision By The Committee
However, since the news about the granted subsidy went online before the official decision was made, the committee made a tough disciplinary decision and removed the projects affected by the premature announcement from the grant package. That meant the city of Ulm lost two million euros in subsidies. This was also especially tough: The article on the online portal that started the misery was only online for about an hour before the responsible editor was made aware of his mistake. It is all the more astonishing that the publication attracted any attention at all in Berlin. In Ulm itself, everyone involved is now fervently hoping for a second round of funding so the museum can perhaps be renovated after all. But it is still unclear whether a new tender will actually take place.
Missed Embargo Period: What Will The Consequences Be?
After digesting the initial shock, the people involved as well as other curious people are now discussing whether the responsibility for the mistake lies solely with the editor or also with the member of parliament who had sent this important news to a large mailing list just hours before.
From a legal point of view, the media at least is not required to adhere to an embargo period. Such an embargo would be based on a relationship of trust between the person sharing the news and journalist. This relationship would of course be severely strained if the release were made prematurely, but this isn’t legally relevant as long as no contract was signed. So it is more a question of journalistic ethics, the violation of which, in the worst case, can have a negative impact on future access to early news.
We don’t know anything about the actual consequences for the editor, but his case impressively illustrates how quickly a fatal professional blunder can happen in the media sector, resulting in enormous financial damage. So the right insurance is worthwhile, especially for people who write and publish.
Insurance For Your Profession In The Media Industry
Even if nothing is known (so far) about the legal consequences for the editor of the Ulm city portal, this case impressively shows how great the risk of a professional mishap including financial loss is in the journalistic field. That’s why tailor-made Professional Indemnity Insurance for Digital Professions is worthwhile for self-employed editors, graphic designers, bloggers and many other media professionals - because a violation of rights in the form of an unlawfully used image is enough for you to face a written warning and expensive claims for compensation.
Disputes with clients, delays or data protection violations are also often the subject of expensive disputes. In such cases, the insurer will examine the claims made against you and, if they turn out to be legitimate, will bear the costs. If, on the other hand, the claims are excessive or unjustified, they will be defended against on your behalf.
It is also important to choose a sufficiently large insured sum in order to be able to properly cover possible damages. With Professional Indemnity Insurance for Digital Professions from exali, you can choose from coverage amounts of between 100.000 and three million euros. With that, even the Ulm editor would have been completely covered if he had to pay for the damage incurred.
Our customer advisors will be happy to advise you on +49 (0) 821 80 99 46-0 from Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (CET) about putting together your individual insurance coverage.
Vivien Gebhardt is an online editor at exali. She creates content on topics that are of interest to self-employed people, freelancers and entrepreneurs. Her specialties are risks in e-commerce, legal topics and claims that have happened to exali insured freelancers.
She has been a freelance copywriter herself since 2021 and therefore knows from experience what the target group is concerned about.