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Monday, 15 August 2016

BBC Transparency Strikes Again


The BBC has said it needs another month to consider the release of information it holds in relation to its recent Freedom of Information blunder.

Regular readers might remember that the BBC failed to redact sensitive TV Licensing information from a recent Freedom of Information Act response. In doing so the BBC obliterated, once and for all, the myth of a widespread and effective TV Licensing enforcement regime.

The information included the number of TV Licensing detection requests (116 across England and Northern Ireland; none in Scotland or Wales) and search warrants granted (167 across England, Wales and Northern Ireland; none in Scotland) in the 12 months to 31st March 2015.

On 18th July 2016 transparency campaigner Doug Paulley, a volunteer on the WhatDoTheyKnow website, asked the BBC to provide all information it held in relation to the aforementioned Freedom of Information blunder.

Earlier today the BBC replied to Doug saying that it held relevant information, but needed another month to weigh-up whether or not it should be released.

In certain circumstances, where a qualified exemption applies, a public authority can take longer than the normal 20 working days to provide a Freedom of Information response.

In this case the BBC is relying on the qualified exemptions contained within sections 31 (law enforcement) and 42 (legal professional privilege) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

It should be noted, however, that even when a qualified exemption applies, the Information Commissioner is of the opinion that it should never take longer than 40 working days to reach a decision. That said, we are aware of several instances where the BBC has apparently ignored Freedom of Information requests for months, seemingly oblivious to the requirements of the legislation and unconcerned about compliance.

We are not surprised that the BBC is seeking to delay the release of this information, as it will undoubtedly demonstrate the Corporation's exasperation and terror that it has betrayed its own secrets.

Speaking of the BBC's delayed response, Doug said: "I will be pursuing this to its ultimate conclusion, if necessary through internal review and decision notices and possibly further."

We look forward to the BBC's eventual response.

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