EXCLUSIVE: BBC spends a third of £1 million concealing Middle East 'Balen Report'

A Freedom of Information request released by The Commentator shows how desperate the BBC is to hide the Balen Report

by The Commentator on 26 August 2012 08:40

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Today, The Commentator reveals a Freedom of Information request showing that the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has so far spent almost a third of a million pounds (more than half a million dollars) in order to conceal the infamous 'Balen Report', into the corporation's coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict, from the British public.

Britons are required by law to own licences in order to use televisions. This raises £3.6billion in funding for the state broadcaster. Despite this public funding, the BBC does not have to comply with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 with regard to actual information held for the purposes of journalism, art or literature.

The Balen Report was written in 2004 and campaigners say the BBC does not wish to release the document over fears that it will substantiate claims of BBC bias against Israel. Ironically, it is understood that former Director of News for the BBC, Richard Sambrook, commissioned the report in order to allay public fears. The report, however, was never released.

Since 2004, campaigners have attempted to coax the BBC into releasing the report, taking the organisation through a series of legal battles in order to view the information held within. 

It has now come to light that the BBC has spent almost a third of a million pounds to hide the report from the public eye: "The legal costs incurred by the BBC amount to £332,780.47," the BBC said.

The actual cost to the BBC is likely to be far higher, as in-house legal time is not factored in and nor is Value Added Tax. 

An extract from the BBC Freedom of Information request states:

The figure represents the costs incurred relating to the case before the Information Tribunal (as it then was) (c.2006), before the High Court (c.2007), Court of Appeal (c.2008) and House of Lords (c.2009), and again before the High Court (c.2009), the Court of Appeal (c.2010) and Supreme Court (c.2012). 

In 2007, Conservative MP David Davis told the Daily Mail, in response to a story that claimed the BBC could have spent up to £200,000 defending the report, "I think the BBC are guilty of shameful hypocrisy. What could possibly be in this report that could possibly be worth £200,000 to bury. What is it they feel is so awful in this report."

That the figure is likely more than double this figure will infuriate freedom of information campaigners and once again raise suspicions about the BBC's desperation to hide the Balen Report.

Raheem Kassam, Executive Editor for The Commentator said: "The BBC is guilty of thoroughly indefensible actions in hiding the Balen Report. If there is nothing to be afraid of, the BBC should stop wasting taxpayers' money immediately and hand over the report. Once again they refused to, when we most recently asked for a copy. It smacks of desperation."

Just this week, the BBC's Director General, Mark Thompson, said that the BBC was "very, very close to the edge" and that he did not see where further cuts in spending for the BBC could be made. But the figure represented by the legal costs associated with the Balen Report could indeed provide for dozens of staff salaries at the BBC, a revelation that will likely cause discord within the organisation as departments are closed or shrunk.

The figure for the cost of the Balen Report's secrecy comes at a time when the BBC is under increasing pressure for its institutional bias against the British coalition government, the State of Israel, market economics and just yesterday, for promoting a Socialist Party activist without clarifying his association with the political party.

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