Follow-up on FYI FOI
The BBC has a long tradition of making information available and accessible. It seeks to be open and accountable and already provides the public with a great deal of information about its activities. BBC Information operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week handling telephone and written comments and queries, and the BBC’s website bbc.co.uk provides an extensive online information resource.
Head of Accountability, BBC News
The BBC partially answered my Freedom of Information Act queries. I say partially because they refused to answer any of the specifics of the legal advice that the BBC Guidelines mandates must be given given to their journalists. Their rationale is that the information I requested is excluded from the Act because it is held for the purposes of ‘journalism, art or literature.’ Those three, especially the first category, are the BBC’s key business. That can be translated as, We have guidelines but we won’t tell you if we follow them or not.
I asked the BBC about James Stephenson not sending reports to the IDF Censor. Please read the complete report here. The gist of their answer is, No laws were infringed; the head of the Jerusalem bureau did not judge that any material needed to be referred to the Israeli Censor. The purpose of the censorship is to prevent the publication of security information which could benefit the enemy or harm the State and by law applies to foreign journalists unless apparently they are the BBC. It does not seem at all likely that the BBC will volunteer what material it does submit.
In a second FOI request I asked about BBC correspondent Alpa Shah‡ interviewing the banned (in India) Maoist insurgents. Please read the complete report here. As with James Stephenson no information was given about the legal advice she received or if indeed there was any. The gist of the answer from Huh Levinson, a senior editor in BBC Radio Current Affairs was, I would respond to your wider issue by saying that the Indian Maoist movement is not a proscribed organisation under the Terrorism Act. We have considered the editorial issues involved in the broadcast according to the usual procedures of the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines. Translated, the BBC doesn’t feel obliged to follow its own guidelines on terrorism and criminal acts if the group in question is not proscribed in Britain.
Taking it from here
Challenging the BBC is a time consuming and expensive task. As we have seen from the Balen Report saga the BBC is prepared to spend huge sums not to make information available and accessible. Still making FOI requests is still not a waste of time. The results become publicly available. Is there a lawyer out there willing to help?
The Indian material will be passed on to the Indian Government who hopefully will take it further.
† Five Minutes for Israel is developing a tradition of photoshopping clown noses on people whose arrogance, bias or ignorance on the subject of Israel makes a degree of personal ridicule justified. We found it unnecessary here. It’s hard to believe the BBC with its billions of Pounds Sterling in resources couldn’t have found a better photograph.
‡ Alpa Shah seems a surprisingly common name. As I couldn’t be sure I found the ‘correct’ Ms. Shah I haven’t displayed a photograph.