High Court test for the BBC and FOI

The BBC has gone to the High Court in an attempt to overturn a ruling that a member of the public has the right under freedom of information laws to see an internal report on its Middle East coverage.

Last September, the Information Tribunal ruled that the BBC should release the document. The BBC is now seeking to overturn that decision.

According to the UK FOI Act, the BBC is only bound by the Freedom of Information Act “for purposes other than those of journalism, art or literature”. Along with Channel 4, the BBC is allowed to withhold material that deals with the production of art, entertainment and journalism and it has rejected more than 400 Freedom of Information requests on that basis.

The case is highly significant because very few freedom of information cases reach the High Court: the majority end at the Information Tribunal appeal stage. If the High Court were to overturn the Information Tribunal’s ruling it would be a serious blow to its credibility and could have a significant bearing on future Tribunal cases.

BBC asks court to block Israel report (The Times Online, 27 March 2007)

BBC begins key High Court FOI appeal (Press Gazette, 27 March 2007)