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Monday, 10 February 2014

BBC Freedom of Information Farce: Another BBC Cover-Up Exposed


A while ago we asked the BBC to disclose some more information about the famous Hartlepool door handle snatching TV Licensing goon.

On 9th October 2012 this TV Licensing goon attended the legally-licence-free property on routine enquiries (read more here). During the visit, which was thankfully captured in full on CCTV, the goon became aggressive and shouted some of TV Licensing's favourite threats through the letterbox. The video footage clearly showed the moment he tried to force his way back into the property, as the terrified lone-female occupant tentatively closed the door on his aggressive line of questioning. All this happened only a few miles away from where Gary Catterick, a TV Licensing goon at the time, raped his pregnant victim in Middlesbrough.

The BBC was first made aware of this incident when we published the story on 14th December 2012. Our article was timed to coincide with the release of CCTV footage of the incident. The BBC's response to our first FOIA request on the subject shows that they first raised questions about the goon's conduct on 17th December 2012, which was some two months after the incident happened. 

Very tellingly, cowboy TV Licensing contractor Capita, who employed the social misfit in question, had not considered it necessary to inform the BBC about the incident at the time, despite the police having taken an interest in the goon's aggressive doorstep patter. As it transpires, the police later decided not to pursue the case, choosing instead to believe the goon's highly implausible justification for why he'd tried to force the door back open. The first time Capita volunteered any information about this incident to their BBC bosses was in an email dated 17th December 2012. It is quite clear that had we not pushed the BBC for answers, Capita would have probably attempted to brush the matter under the carpet. We'd ask the BBC to consider just what else Capita is trying to keep behind closed doors.

The male occupier of the Hartlepool property, who was not present during the 9th October 2012 incident, subsequently wrote twice to the BBC's Head of Revenue Management, Pipa Doubtfire. His emails expressed concern about TV Licensing's aggressive style of enquiry, with particular regard to the Capita knuckle-dragger that had terrified his wife. Ms Doubtfire, who is the senior member of the BBC's TV Licensing Management Team, replied in some detail to each of those emails.

On 28th September 2013 we sent a second FOIA request to the BBC, seeking disclosure of the Hartlepool occupier's emails. We didn't mention to the BBC that we have had, all along, copies of those emails in our possession. The only reason we wanted the BBC to disclose the information was for their self-embarrassment.

It should come as little surprise that the BBC, with a chequered history of covering-up and denying scandal, refused to disclose any of the emails in question. According to them, their refusal was on the basis that it would have been unfair to the Hartlepool occupier to release any of his personal information to a third-party. 

The BBC's refusal to disclose struck us as a bit disingenuous, as having read the emails carefully we could not see anything that directly identified the occupier. In an attempt to force the BBC's hand we contacted the occupier and asked him to consent to the BBC's release of the emails in response to our request. Even after receiving that explicit consent, it would appear that the BBC wants to keep the content of those emails under wraps. Five months after our asking, they have still not released the information requested.

 Image © Dixie Allen, webclipart.about.com

We've got a spot of bad news for the BBC. Having been pissed around for the last five months, we've finally decided press print on the emails they've been trying to keep hidden. We consider there is a legitimate public interest in the BBC's response to the Hartlepool incident, as the BBC is ultimately responsible for all aspects of TV licence enforcement and administration. It's also fair to say that the BBC continues to receive regular and fully justified criticism for the dubious conduct of its TV Licensing operation.

You can read the text of the emails at the following links:
As you'll see, it would appear that BBC's cries of "we're protecting the occupier's personal information" were a complete crock of shit. Their handling of this request is another clear indication of their deep-seated culture of FOIA evasiveness.

In this new promised era of BBC transparency and accountability, it would seem they're still prepared to deal with information requests in a less than transparent manner.

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8 comments:

Chris said...

Go to Sainsbury's site and click Privacy policy at the very bottom left. It states, incorrectly "If you are buying a television or any other device, to receive TV signals, from us, please note that the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1967 requires us to notify the TV Licensing Authority, giving full details of the address to which the TV will be delivered. "

I have contacted them and asked them to review and correct the policy, and included a link to TVL's own site where it states "The Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1967 (as amended) has been repealed, meaning that from 25 June 2013 onwards you no longer need to send us customer name and address details when you sell or rent out TV equipment. This also means your business no longer has to keep sales records to comply with the law on TV Licensing. If you don’t need these records for anything else you can destroy them from 25 June."

I hope they fix it. Despite the wording I don't know if Sainsbury's are actually reporting the data. In the meantime Tesco would appear to be acting unlawfully and breaching their obligations as Data Controllers. Let's see what they come back with. If no joy then the correct escalation is to Tesco as Data Controller

http://ico.org.uk/esdwebpages/search

then if still no joy writing to the ICO to report them.

Anonymous said...

Interesting reading,but the bottom line is however many times the BBC appologize for the antics of TV Licensing,they really couldn't give a toss and will continue to behave in exactly the same way in future.

The only answer that I can see is to ignore all their threatograms or do as I do and return them all to Bristol, and if a goon turns up on your doorstep just laugh in his face. Contempt seems to be the best remedy for this filth.

WeirdWood said...

Shared on Facebook :-)

Chris said...

Sorry, my comment above was supposed to be attached to the Tesco article not this one... I must have got confused by all the displays of corporate incompetence!

Chris

Anonymous said...

Trust the BBC to tell the truth? You must be joking!

If they aren't even honest enough to honour their legal obligations on matters like these then one must question what else they are prepared to do to cover things up...

Steve Midz said...

I am disgusted with the police on this one, they were handed very clear cctv footage and still did not do their job.

admin said...

The police are an absolute national disgrace. Institutionally as corrupt as the BBC.

Simon bailey said...

Absolutely disgusting behaviour from the bbc and police. That poor woman, how many others are suffering at the hands of the bbc/capita.we need radical change.