We have recently been reminded of the BBC's rather questionable response to this Freedom of Information request placed via the WhatDoTheyKnow website.
The requestor, Catherine Musgrove, asked the BBC to provide TV Licensing prosecution and conviction statistics for the county of Lancashire in the year 2014.
The BBC refused to provide the information on the grounds that it didn't hold it. In its refusal notice, the BBC stated the following: "Please be advised that the BBC does not hold official statistics on the precise number of people actually prosecuted and convicted of evasion of the Television Licence Fee."
Skip forward six months and something very interesting happened, as spotted by eagle-eyed transparency campaigner Doug Paulley.
The BBC had mistakenly released sensitive information that should have been redacted from the TV Licensing Field Monthly Performance Pack for 2014/15. Doug realised that pages 28 and 29 of that document did, indeed, provide a detailed breakdown of the number of people prosecuted and convicted of TV licence evasion. That's the same information the BBC had earlier denied possession of.
It is difficult to see how the BBC can, on one hand, claim not to hold certain information, yet on the other disclose it to someone else. Unless it wants to pretend that the statistics printed in the Monthly Performance Pack don't count because they are not "official" (although they're clearly official enough for TV Licensing to report them to the BBC).
Was this an example of BBC inconsistency, error, omission, incompetence or inefficiency? On this occasion we do not believe the BBC was deliberately evasive, obstructive or dishonest. If the BBC had intended to keep the information concealed it would have at least attempted to redact it in the Monthly Performance Pack, which it didn't.
We are tending towards inefficiency as an explanation. We know the BBC is grossly inefficient, with five untrained monkeys employed to do the work of a single semi-competent person. The Director General, Tony Hall, is currently trying to streamline the Corporation's management structure and systems, but perhaps he hasn't got as far as Information Policy and Compliance just yet.
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