BBC refuses transparency over Freedom of Information

The BBC continues to hide information behind the smokescreen of a provision in the Freedom of Information Act - it should be abolished

by Media Hawk on 26 November 2012 10:03

As the country's only state broadcaster, it is understandable that the BBC receives so many Freedom of Information Act requests. It is possibly the most powerful media institution in the country and of course, funded by the licence-fee payer.

The BBC can refuse information if it is not "held for purposes other those of journalism, art and literature". Basically, don't be surprised if you send the Beeb an FoI about the finances of a niche service, such as BBC Radio 12, for example, and get refused a response. 

But the BBC is pushing new boundaries when it comes to the refusal of Freedom of Information requests. Data from a Freedom of Information request itself shows that since 2005, the Beeb has refused an average of 48 percent of requests on these grounds.

In 2011, the BBC received 1610 requests, 798 (49 percent) were deemed 'out of scope'. Worse was 2010, when 52 percent of the total 1734 requests were refused on the grounds that it came under the "journalism, art or literature" framework. 

The BBC of course, and rightly so, is not a bottomless pit of resources. It is fair to imagine that many of the FOI requests would be out of scope due to scale and complexity of the request, but this is not the case with those in question. 

For information that is held, and kept secret under the guise of 'journalism, art or literature', the BBC is hiding information from its funders and stakeholders. This is a provision that should be removed from the Freedom of Information Act at the first opportunity. And then we might finally see that Balen Report.

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