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  • £3m cost of BBC’s FoI team

    Posted on September 11th, 2009 admin No comments

    I have reprinted below an article that appeared in the Guardian. I have to say that personally I feel no sympathy for the BBC as most of this money appears to be spent hiding behind its ‘artistic’ derogation. If they were more open then perhaps they would ultimately get fewer questions. Also if the do the maths it appears the entire BBC FoI team could be funded every year from about seven weeks of Jonathan Ross’ salary. If you read further down I think that I may be the anonymous journalist in the Top 10 of people making FoI requests to the Beeb. I say ‘name and shame’ me.


    The demands of complying with the Freedom of Information Act have cost the BBC more than £3m since the act was introduced in 2005, according to figures obtained through an FOI request by the Guardian.

    FoI requests to the BBC have risen since 2005, from 971 in the first year to 1,141 to the end of July this year. The act has led to a number of newspaper revelations, including disclosures about the salaries and expenses of senior BBC executives, which the corporation published in June, partly because of the large number of requests on the subject and the cost of processing them.

    The questions have include a breakdown of the number of English presenters appearing in the BBC’s Scottish programmes or the number of times a wheelchair user has appeared on the BBC show Bargain Hunt in the last 18 months.

    In 2008/9, staff costs for the BBC’s Information Policy and Compliance team –whose main job is to supply the public with information under the Act – were £614,000 with a further £22,000 for costs including accommodation and telephony and £42,000 legal costs.

    This compares with a total of £648,000 total costs for 2007/8 and £655,000 for 2006/7. In 2005/6 the costs were £683,000 while 2004/5 the cost was £495,000. This means that in total the cost of the IPC has been £3.16m since 2004/5.

    The BBC has insisted that the IPC team “have other responsibilities” which include overseeing the BBC’s policies on data protection.

    However, according to a senior BBC source the bulk of the IPC’s work is taken up with meeting the demands of the Act.

    “The vast majority of IPC work is taken up with FoI and they mainly collate the information,” said the source.

    “These costs also don’t cover all the work of the individual departments, some of whom have people working all the time collating information. Sometimes there are stacks and stacks of paper that have to go out to requestees which is very time consuming.”

    An unnamed Times journalist has topped the list of the most overall requests with a Mail on Sunday journalist being the second most regular requester of information under the Act which was introduced by Tony Blair’s government with the intention of opening up public bodies to wider public scrutiny.

    Other requesters in the top 10 include a freelance journalist, members of the public and a Sunday Times journalist in seventh place and a Sun journalist in 10th place. The BBC has declined to name the individuals concerned.

    Questions asked of the BBC include supplying “correspondence relating to the estate of Lawrence Olivier and the Olivier Awards” and the number of Scottish, English and ethnic presenters who appear on Scottish TV and radio and the number of English, Scottish and ethnic presenters are there on English TV and radio. One question also asked how many times a wheelchair user had appeared in Bargain Hunt.

    “We are happy to comply with FOI but it could be argued that this time and money could be spent on programmes,” added the source.

    However the act has seen a number of newspaper revelations that may not otherwise have appeared.

    These include the disclosures about the salaries of senior BBC staff and their expenses which the Corporation revealed in bulk earlier this summer due to the large number of requests on the subject.

    Revelations included the hiring of a Cessna jet by director general Mark Thompson to make an emergency return from holiday in 2004 and his purchase of a £99.99 bottle of Krug Grande Cuvée champagne as an 80th birthday present for Bruce Forsyth in February last year.

    The BBC has also promised to publish the expenses of Thompson and the other eight members of the BBC executive board, as well as the corporation’s non-executive directors, every six months in order to cut the staff time and money spent on dealing with FOI requests.

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