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British Broadcasting Corporation Room BC2 A4 Broadcast Centre White City Wood Lane London W12 7TP
Telephone 020 8008 2882 Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Via email: email@example.com
25 July 2019
Dear David J Fradley Freedom of Information request – RFI20191180
Thank you for your request to the BBC of 11 July 2019, seeking the fol owing information under
the Freedom of Information Act 2000:
Please supply me with the following information.
The figures for complaints received in the last 10 years. Detailing each year individually and
specifying the departments/programs the complaints were made to.
Specify the overall number of complaints in each year related to claims of political bias.
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 wil 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 activities.1
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
al 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
1 For more information about how the Act applies to the BBC please see the enclosure which fol ows this letter.
Please note that this guidance is not intended to be a comprehensive legal interpretation of how the Act applies to the
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’. I have included three Decision Notices which specifical y address information about the
number of editorial complaints; the first deals with the number of complaints made to the BBC
concerning political bias (FS50295017); the second concerns the number of complaints received
about the World Cup 2010 programmes (FS50363611); the third case concerned the number of
complaints made about editions of Panorama (FS50465338).
In each of these cases, 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.
Including a further Decision Notice which concerned information about the complaints handling
procedures (FS50327965); once again the Commissioner determined that information about
complaints procedures was used in the process to enable the enhancement of the standards and
quality of journalism, and therefore had a direct relationship to the creation of the BBC’s output.
It is the view of the BBC that similar circumstances exist in the present case, and that the
information you have requested is similarly held for the purposes of supporting the BBC’s creative
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
That said, the BBC makes a huge range of information available about our programmes and
content on bbc.co.uk. We also proactively publish information covered by the Act on our
publication scheme and regularly handle requests for information under the Act. 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 https://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.
Freedom of Information
From January 2005 the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2000 gives a general right of access
to al 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 al 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 wel 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 wil
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 al 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
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.