A BBC FoI Act info request response, earlier today.
A few weeks ago, I asked Auntie this.
Dear Sir or Madam,
Please submit the accurate total cost figure incurred by the BBC in securing, broadcasting and staffing television coverage of the United States Democratic Electoral Primary Contest in 2008.
You may, if you wish, break down the figures into individual areas of disbursement if you desire, but this is at your own option.
Mac the Knife
The reply popped up in my inbox today, and guess what?
The BBC will not be providing you with the information you requested as we believe it is not
covered by the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (“the Act”).
You don't say? Why not?
The BBC has chosen not to volunteer information relating to the costs of coverage of particular
news stories for several reasons, chief amongst them being the need to maintain our
independence and impartiality.
Sorry? Don't quite see how you got there...
I’m sure you will be disappointed that we are not releasing this information to you and even when
we explain that we believe the Act doesn’t apply people often say that they believe that we should
release it anyway. That as licence fee payers they feel they are entitled to it. I would like to explain
why we are not doing so.
Disappointed? Oh no. Not at all. I'm experiencing a completely different emotion. Can you guess what it is yet?
You may not be aware that one of the main policy drivers behind the limited application of the Act
to public service broadcasters was to protect freedom of expression and the rights of the media
under Article 10 European Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR”). The BBC, as a media
organisation, is under a duty to impart information and ideas on all matters of public interest and
the importance of this function has been recognised by the European Court of Human Rights.
Maintaining our editorial independence is a crucial factor in enabling the media to fulfil this
The Information Commissioner’s Office has recognised the importance of Schedule 1 of the Act in
protecting the independence of the media, stating that:
“It is the Commissioner’s view that the ultimate purpose of the derogation (Schedule 1) is
to protect journalistic, artistic and literary integrity by carving out a creative and
journalistic space for programme makers to produce programmes free from the
interference and scrutiny of the public.”1
The BBC agrees with this interpretation and believes that we have a need to protect our
journalistic and editorial independence by maintaining just such a private space in which to
produce our content. .
The decision as to which reporters or correspondents, and indeed how many of such staff to send
on a particular story, is one of the most fundamental editorial decisions that Newsgathering
undertakes. Despite the BBC’s obligation to be independent and impartial, many bodies, groups
and individuals attempt to influence our output and programme makers across the BBC must be
able to resist pressure directed at the editorial decisions made on resource allocation.
So, you won't tell me how much you spunked burying the coverage of the Lisbon Treaty, in order to ensure that you remain 'independent and impartial' and ensure your 'journalistic, artistic and literary integrity'.
Sorry folks, the boat sailed on all that bollocks some time ago.
Call me a scabby old cynic, but I see this as a pathetically transparent attempt to hide a specious, politically motivated mega-junket behind some very badly withered fig leaves. Not fucking good enough.
If you are not satisfied with this response you have the right to appeal to the Information
Commissioner. The contact details are: Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House,
Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF, telephone 01625 545 700 or see
Head of Accountability, BBC News
Way, way ahead of you Stephanie.
Watch this space.