Your 1st place for FoI News
RSS icon Email icon Home icon
  • Lord leaping on Beeb’s Strictly phone secret

    Posted on March 9th, 2009 admin No comments

    A Liberal Democrat peer has accused the BBC of “Mugabe-like” tactics in the way it has thwarted his Freedom of Information attempts to uncover the voting controversy of Strictly Come Dancing’s semi-final.

    But his efforts at using the Freedom of Information to shed more light on the mystery have been refused by the BCC and he has now compared the Corporation’s tactics to those of Zimbabwean dictator, Robert Mugabe.

    The semi-final saw three, rather than two, couples progress to the final and Lord Tyler, the former North Cornwall MP, wants to find out exactly how many votes were cast for each competitor. 

    1,2,3,3. Oh start again...1,2......

    1,2,3,3. Oh start again...1,2......



    The BBC claims the voting figures are not information that can be released under FoI legislation. 

    Lord Tyler said: “These are standards of transparency more resonant of Zimbabwe than of a democratic country with effective freedom of information rules.  Even Mugabe eventually had to release voting figures once the election was over.”

    Millions of people called in to vote in the semi-final but the programme’s producers decided not to eliminate any of the couples at that stage.  The BBC received more than 1,400 complaints from viewers and was forced to offer refunds. 

    Lord Tyler said: “Licence payers’ cash has been spent in the millions on Strictly Come Dancing and the programme’s production has turned from fiasco to farce.

    “The very least people now deserve is to see exactly how many votes were cast for each couple. 

    “The BBC seem to think that we are all fools, with this pathetic excuse for secrecy.

    “Even if these data cannot be released while a particular series is being screened, there can be no sense in concealing them once the contest is over.” 

    Lord Tyler said the prime-time BBC show threw a spotlight on Britain’s “first-past-the-post” Parliamentary electoral system, in which the winner can poll less than half the total vote.

    The Liberal Democrats have been long-time supporters of electoral reform and adopting a system of proportional representation. The show was eventually won by Holby City actor Tom Chambers.

    Responding to Lord Tyler’s request for information, Richard Curwen, head of legal, business affairs and brand management in the entertainment, events and comedy department of the BBC, wrote: “It is not the type of information we would provide voluntarily as we want to protect the programme participants from any potential impact of individual voting levels being made available.”

     Mr Curwen said that under the Freedom of Information Act the BBC is only obliged to provide information held for purposes “other than those of journalism, art or literature”.

     Commenting on the BBC’s response, Lord Tyler said: “The Information Commissioner has apparently ruled before that voting figures relate to journalism, art or literature.  I think there are serious questions about the validity of that judgment.

    “However, the BBC should in any event publish the information voluntarily as a matter of legitimate public interest.

     “Instead, the bureaucracy is showing itself up as outrageously arrogant and devious.”

     Lord Tyler has now appealed his case to the Information Commissioner and to the BBC Trust.



    Leave a reply