Another ‘creative’ BBC interpretation of the FOIA

On its dedicated ‘Freedom of Information Act’ webpage the BBC states:

“As a publicly funded organisation, the BBC is fully committed to meeting both the spirit and the letter of the Act.”FOIA

But – as regular BBC watchers know – that pledge of “fully committed” sometimes seems to droop and the declaration that the BBC is only subject to the FOIA “in respect of information held for purposes other than those of journalism, art or literature” is not uncommon.

Now the Times informs us of another clause which has been used to avoid the release of information to the licence fee paying public.  

“The BBC has been accused of putting the privacy of its executives ahead of accountability after refusing to reveal details of payoffs to dozens of former bosses.

The packages of up to £1 million paid to about 150 departing senior staff were condemned by the public accounts committee in a report last year, in one of the most damaging episodes in the corporation’s recent history.

The BBC’s blocking of a request from The Times for full details of severance arrangements comes as the corporation refused to disclose spending on expensive restaurant meals at licence-payers’ expense because doing so would violate their staff’s right to keep their dining preferences secret.

Lord Hall of Birkenhead, the BBC’s director-general, admitted that the payoffs to departing executives were wrong and imposed a cap of £150,000 on redundancies. However, all but a handful of the dozens of payoffs have been kept secret and the BBC is continuing to refuse requests for details under the Freedom of Information Act.

In response to the latest requests by The Times, the BBC said that disclosure of payments, even when they were in excess of contractual entitlements, would be disproportionate and an “unfair” violation of privacy. […]

The BBC said: “The BBC already publishes detailed expenses claims for its most senior executives and responds to over 2,000 freedom of information requests every year, often volunteering more information than the act requires. In this particular case the information requested was not released because it is protected by an exemption under the Freedom of Information Act relating to data protection and other considerations.” “

“Fully committed to meeting both the spirit and the letter…”?

Related Articles:

The saga of three questions the BBC did not want to answer – part one

The saga of three questions the BBC did not want to answer – part two

 

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