Your 1st place for FoI News
RSS icon Email icon Home icon
  • High Court saves the BBC

    Posted on October 9th, 2009 admin 1 comment

    This post has upset me so much that it has taken me a few days to bring myself to write it.

    The BBC’s derogation from the Freedom of Information Act which was first weaked by the Commissioner and then put in limbo for the last year now appears to have been settled. And its not good news for those of us who were lobbying for greater transparency at the Beeb.

    The judge has effectively stiffened the derogation by saying if the information requested has any link to “arts or journalism” then it falls outside the Act. The previous position that had been adopted, but was was taken to appeal by the BBC was that it depended on what the information “prodominant” purpose had been.

    Sadly I have already been contacted by the Information Commissioner’s Office and have been forced to throw in the towel in relation to three of my appeals - how much the BBC spent on accommodation at the Olympics; how much was spent on accommodation at the Open Golf; how much it spent buying the rights to Formula 1. All of those along with dozens of others I suspect have now been cleared off the Commissioner’s desk.

    However, I refused to budge on two others. One relates to the BBC’s pension fund and the other relating to a taxi contract the Beeb has with a company was refused on the basis of S.43 (commercial interests) so it would be rich if the Beeb now said it was covered by its derogation.

    Two points on the whole sorry saga. Firstly the judge, with all due respect as they say, has clearly misjudged the matter. The derogation is now so wide that it virtually covers everything the broadcaster does - can that have been what the legislators intended?

    Secondly as we all hunker down for the huge public service cuts that will follow the forthcoming election is it right that the BBC - one of the deepest pits of taxpayers’ money - should be free from public scrutiny? Especially when the BBC are such enthusiastic users of the Act. I don’t see the storm over BBC costs disappearing any time soon and with a predicted change in Government soon perhaps the tide will swing back against the BBC.

    For your amusment, and to illustrate the point that the BBC’s use of its own resources will continue to be  a thorn in its side I have added a clip of Paxman v Boris. You may have seen it but as Boris gets more and more exasperated at Paxman questioning him about his drunken university exploits he responds by asking Paxman how much he gets paid.

    I’m optimistic. I don’t think this will be the last post I write about BBC costs. For those of you who want to read the judegment I’ve linked to it [here].



    One response to “High Court saves the BBC”

    1. I made a request to the BBC back in February 2007. I asked them how much money they got from sub-licencing user-submitted content (photos, videos etc.). As you may have noticed, whenever there’s a breaking incident, the bottom of the page on the BBC News website carries a message urging any witnesses to send photos or videos of the incident. In the associated terms & conditions was (at the time, though they may have since changed) a clause stating tha, by submitting content, you granted the BBC the right to sub-licence the work (i.e. to licence other news agencies and the like to use the photo). This might be done at charge, hence my question.

      The BBC refused, claiming the information fell outside the scope of the Act, as it would be held for the pruposes of journalism, literature or art.

      Whilst I accept that the photos/videos themselves may be held for the purposes of journalism or art, details of the money the BBC has received for ‘selling on’ such material is surely not held for the purposes of journalism, literature or art? So I complained to the ICO. Back in May 2007 this was.

      I finally got an email from the BBC earlier this week. They reiterated that they considered my request was for information that fell outside FOI as it applies to the BBC. But (and here’s the funny bit), they wrote (or words to this effect) “in an effort to resolve this matter as quickly as possible… we can advise you that this information is not held, as the BBC does not make money from ‘selling on’ user-submitted content”.

      “in an attempt to resolve this matter as quickly as possible”??? 2 and a half years after I made my request?? I then got an email from the ICO asking whether I was now happy, and would I like to withdraw my complaint… It made me wonder how much negotiating the ICO and the BBC have done behind the scenes to try and close as many of the outstanding BBC cases that are with the ICO as quickly as possible. Perhaps an FOI request to the ICO would be in order?

      Anyway, I suppose I was lucky… at least the BBC ‘volunteered’ the answer to my request to me.

    Leave a reply