Long-time BBC Watch readers will be familiar with the phrase “for the purposes of journalism, art or literature”. It is the clause cited by the BBC to justify its refusal to release the Balen Report and it was used when a member of the public submitted a Freedom of Information Act request concerning the number of complaints made to the BBC.
“Last month the BBC produced a cinematic advert to “celebrate the unique role that the BBC plays in all of our lives”. […] Guido fired off a Freedom of Information request to the notoriously opaque Beeb, asking how much licence fee payers stumped up for the very expensive looking advert. To our complete lack of surprise, the BBC are refusing to reveal the cost:
“The information you have requested is excluded from the Act because it is held for the purposes of ‘journalism, art or literature.’ The BBC is therefore not obliged to provide this information to you and will not be doing so on this occasion.””
The upcoming once-in-a-decade BBC charter review would suggest that the timing of the appearance of this advert is not coincidental. In fact, readers may recall that back in 2013, the Telegraph reported that the BBC’s Director General raised the possibility of using funds provided by the obligatory licence fee to persuade the public to carry on paying it.
“The BBC must “get aggressive” about selling its virtues to the nation, director-general Lord Hall has argued, as he disclosed the corporation will be using its own airwaves to convince viewers it is good value.
Lord Hall has said the BBC must be “less British” about telling the public the £145.50 licence fee is worth paying, as he insisted it is “quite wrong” to accuse the corporation of dominating the media.
His statement raises the possibility that the BBC could place advertisements or trailers on its own channels in the run-up to the licence fee being considered in 2016, spelling out its benefits to viewers.”
Apparently though the BBC – which purports “to operate as transparently as possible” – does not believe that the people who funded this advert are entitled to know how much it (or the rest of the corporation’s considerable efforts relating to charter renewal) cost.