BBC censors FOI request

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has claimed that their freedom of information request to the BBC for material relating to planned job cuts at the corporation has had "huge chunks" censored.

The NUJ asked for the information in April, requesting access to minutes, correspondence and copies of analysis and reports provided to BBC governors before they approved Director General Mark Thompson's plan to cut almost 4,000 jobs.

The BBC published more than 50 documents, running to more than 200 pages, at the end of May, in response to the NUJ's request. NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said: "Despite publishing these documents, the BBC has removed a large amount of information from them under various exemptions of the FoI Act. Anything that is controversial within the documents — anything that could have a possible impact has been blanked out."

A BBC spokesman said: "We have released more than 200 pages of internal BBC documentation in response to this FoI request from the NUJ. There are, however, some pieces of information in these documents which we have withheld, for instance on grounds of commercial confidentiality. It is not appropriate, for instance, for the BBC to release information which would cause the BBC (and therefore indirectly the licence-fee payer) commercial prejudice — for instance potentially prejudicing forthcoming negotiations or revealing the BBC's future strategy to its competitors. On balance, therefore, releasing this information would not be in the public interest. To be clear, though, all the BBC is doing by withholding some information is applying exemptions which are also used legitimately by other public sector organisations when dealing with FoI requests."

NUJ boss hits out at BBC for ‘censoring’ FoI documents (Press Gazette, 2 June 2005)


Anonymous said...

As a state funded, public service organisation the BBC should not see itself as having 'competitors'.

It should stop playing the ratings game and offer distinctive programming of the type that cannot survive in the marketplace.