[FOI #11059 email]
May 27th, 2009
Dear Mr McCubbin, Freedom of Information request – RFI20090631
Thank you for your email of April 27th under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 making the
following request: “Please submit the accurate total cost figure incurred by the BBC in securing, broadcasting and staffing
television coverage of the United States Democratic Electoral Primary Contest in 2008.”
The BBC will not be providing you with the information you requested as we believe it is not
covered by the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (“the Act”).
The BBC and the other public service broadcasters are covered by the Act only in respect of
information held for purposes “other than those of journalism, art or literature” (see Schedule I,
Part VI of the Act). This means that we are not obliged to supply information held for the
purposes of creating the BBC’s output or is closely associated with these creative activities.
I’m sure you will be disappointed that we are not releasing this information to you and even when
we explain that we believe the Act doesn’t apply people often say that they believe that we should
release it anyway. That as licence fee payers they feel they are entitled to it. I would like to explain
why we are not doing so.
The BBC has chosen not to volunteer information relating to the costs of coverage of particular
news stories for several reasons, chief amongst them being the need to maintain our
independence and impartiality.
You may not be aware that one of the main policy drivers behind the limited application of the Act
to public service broadcasters was to protect freedom of expression and the rights of the media
under Article 10 European Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR”). The BBC, as a media
organisation, is under a duty to impart information and ideas on all matters of public interest and
the importance of this function has been recognised by the European Court of Human Rights.
Maintaining our editorial independence is a crucial factor in enabling the media to fulfil this
The Information Commissioner’s Office has recognised the importance of Schedule 1 of the Act in
protecting the independence of the media, stating that:
“It is the Commissioner’s view that the ultimate purpose of the derogation (Schedule 1) is
to protect journalistic, artistic and literary integrity by carving out a creative and
journalistic space for programme makers to produce programmes free from the
interference and scrutiny of the public.”1
The BBC agrees with this interpretation and believes that we have a need to protect our
journalistic and editorial independence by maintaining just such a private space in which to
produce our content. .
The decision as to which reporters or correspondents, and indeed how many of such staff to send
on a particular story, is one of the most fundamental editorial decisions that Newsgathering
undertakes. Despite the BBC’s obligation to be independent and impartial, many bodies, groups
and individuals attempt to influence our output and programme makers across the BBC must be
able to resist pressure directed at the editorial decisions made on resource allocation.
The BBC maintains that these decisions are part of the editorial space which lies at the heart of
maintaining our independence, as well as being central to the application of Schedule 1 as outlined
by the ICO. The release of the amounts spent covering individual stories under the Freedom of
Information Act would bring to bear additional and unnecessary pressure on the programme
I hope this provides you with some understanding of why this is an important concern for the
For your information, the ICO has agreed in a recent case with the BBC’s interpretation that
information pertaining to the cost of coverage of a news item falls outside the scope of the Act,
… I agree with the BBC that the decision as to how many reporters to send and the
resources to be allocated to a given story is an editorial decision…(and) that the dominant
purpose for which the information is held is journalism.
1 ICO Reference: FAC0070848
If you are not satisfied with this response you have the right to appeal to the Information
Commissioner. The contact details are: Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House,
Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF, telephone 01625 545 700 or see
Head of Accountability, BBC News