BBC to appeal ICO's Eastenders ruling

The BBC has been ordered to reveal the annual staff costs of its flagship soap EastEnders following a freedom of information request – but has argued successfully that it should not have to say how much it pays stars including Barbara Windsor and Steve McFadden.

Today's decision by the Information Commissioner's Office follows a request in March 2006 from an undisclosed source to the BBC for a disclosure of the total annual staff costs of the BBC1 programme and the annual value of performers' contracts.

The BBC initially refused to meet the request in a response sent the next day, insisting that it was exempt from the Freedom of Information Act because "the BBC, Channel 4 and S4C are covered by the act only in respect of information held for purposes other than journalism, art or literature".

Following an appeal to the ICO, the BBC's arguments were dismissed by assistant information commissioner, Anne Jones, who has ordered the corporation to provide the information by July 22.

However, the BBC said that it is appealing against the ICO's decision and that the July 22 deadline has already been suspended.

"[Anne Jones] considers that the information was held by the BBC for operational purposes such as financial and administrative reasons and therefore it does fall within the scope of the act," the ICO said in a statement today.

BBC forced to reveal EastEnders costs under FoI (The Guardian, 8 July 2008)