British Broadcasting Corporation Room BC2 A4 Broadcast Centre White City Wood Lane London W12 7TP
Telephone 020 8008 2882 Email email@example.com
Jim Thomas firstname.lastname@example.org
2 May 2019
Dear Mr Thomas, Freedom of Information request – RFI20190757
Thank you for your request to the BBC of 29 April 2019 seeking the following information under
the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (‘the Act’):
My concerns relate to expressions of opinion by members of the public, not relating to journalistic
integrity or editorial policy. I do not require any justifications or explanations - just raw data on
public opinion as provided to you which is not covered by exemption.
I would like to know numbers of people who have complained for the purposes of statistical
awareness of public opinion on state broadcasting.
Please can you provide statistics of the volume of complaints of bias received related to:
1. Overly Pro-Scottish Independence content bias; and
2. Overly Pro-Unionist (relating to Scotland) content bias.
I would like this information relating to each calendar year to date since 2012 please.
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. Part VI of Schedule 1 to FOIA provides that
information held by the BBC and the other public service broadcasters is only covered by the Act
if it is held for ‘purposes other
than those of journalism, art or literature”. The BBC is not required
to supply information held for the purposes of creating the BBC’s output or information that
supports and is closely associated with these creative activities1.
1 For more information about how the Act applies to the BBC please see the enclosure which follows this letter.
Please note that this guidance is not intended to be a comprehensive legal interpretation of how the Act applies to the
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 function.
In this case, you have requested information that relates to editorial complaints. Editorial
complaints form part of the on-going review of the standards and quality of particular areas of
programme making with a view to further enhancing these standards; the complaints themselves
and the information associated with them plays a significant role in helping to inform editorial
discussion and decisions going forward. In this way information relating to editorial complaints is
used to inform future content and improve the quality of journalistic output; this is an important
part of the BBC’s process of creating and improving programmes.
The Information Commissioner has issued a number of decisions supporting the BBC view that
information relating to editorial complaints is held for the purposes of ‘journalism, art or
literature’. One such Decision Notice specifically addresses the number of complaints made to the
BBC concerning political bias (FS50295017). The Commissioner determined that information
about editorial complaints was held for the purposes of journalism, art or literature as complaints
information – including the numbers of complaints - is used to inform the BBC’s editorial choices
and direction, and remains held to inform future output. It was the Commissioner’s view that the
information held about the number of complaints is necessary to provide an overview of the
editorial complaints and is created as part of the management and enhancement of the standards
and quality of journalism.
For more detail regarding the above ICO decisions please see the following link: https://icosearch.ico.org.uk/s/search.html?collection=ico-meta&profile=decisions&query
However, the BBC makes a huge range of information available about our programmes and
content on bbc.co.uk. Appeal Rights
The BBC does not offer an internal review when the information requested is not covered by the
Act. If you disagree with our decision you can appeal to the Information Commissioner. Contact
details are: Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire,
SK9 5AF, tel: 0303 123 1113 or see http://www.ico.org.uk
Please note that should the Information Commissioner’s Office decide that the Act does cover
this information, exemptions under the Act might then apply.
Information Rights BBC Legal
Freedom of Information
From January 2005 the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2000 gives a general right of access
to all types of recorded information held by public authorities. The Act also sets out
exemptions from that right and places a number of obligations on public authorities. The term
“public authority” is defined in the Act; it includes all public bodies and government
departments in the UK. The BBC, Channel 4, S4C and MG Alba are the only broadcasting
organisations covered by the Act. Application to the BBC
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 Audience Services 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.
It is important to bear this in mind when considering the Freedom of Information Act and
how it applies to the BBC. The Act does not apply to the BBC in the way it does to most
public authorities in one significant respect. It recognises the different position of the BBC (as
well as Channel 4 and S4C) by saying that it covers information “held for purposes other than
those of journalism, art or literature”. This means the Act does not apply to information held
for the purposes of creating the BBC’s output (TV, radio, online etc), or information that
supports and is closely associated with these creative activities.
A great deal of information within this category is currently available from the BBC and will
continue to be so. If this is the type of information you are looking for, you can check
whether it is available on the BBC’s website bbc.co.uk or contact BBC Audience Services.
The Act does apply to all of the other information we hold about the management and
running of the BBC.
The BBC's aim is to enrich people's lives with great programmes and services that inform,
educate and entertain. It broadcasts radio and television programmes on analogue and digital
services in the UK. It delivers interactive services across the web, television and mobile
devices. The BBC's online service is one of Europe's most widely visited content sites.
Around the world, international multimedia broadcaster BBC World Service delivers a wide
range of language and regional services on radio, TV, online and via wireless handheld devices,
together with BBC World News, the commercially-funded international news and
information television channel.
The BBC's remit as a public service broadcaster is defined in the BBC Charter and
Agreement. It is the responsibility of the Ofcom (the BBC’s independent regulator) to ensure
that the organisation delivers against this remit by setting key objectives, approving strategy
and policy, and monitoring and assessing performance. Ofcom also safeguard the BBC's
independence and ensure the Corporation is accountable to its audiences and to Parliament.