Tim R. Blackwell
By email to: [FOI #74702 email]
5 July 2011
Dear Mr Blackwell Freedom of Information request – reference number RFI20110657
Thank you for your request to the BBC of 8 June 2011 under the Freedom of Information Act
2000 (the “Act”) seeking:
“I refer you to the recent decision to remove the Ouch! Disability Message board, please see:
Please answer the following questions:
1. When taking the decision to remove the Ouch! Disability Message board, was a disability
equality impact assessment (EIA) carried out in accordance with the Equality Act 2010?
2. If the answer to 1. is 'yes,' on what date did the disability equality impact assessment start?
3. Where may I obtain a copy of the disability equality impact assessment for the decision to
remove the Ouch! Disability Message board?
4. Who did the BBC consult before taking the decision to remove the Ouch! Disability Message
5. What information did the BBC use to ensure that the Disability Equality Duty (DED) has been
complied with when taking the decision to remove the Ouch! Disability Message board?”
The information you have requested is excluded from the Act because it is held for the purposes
of ‘journalism, art or literature.’ Part VI of Schedule 1 to the Act provides that information held
by the BBC and the other public service broadcasters is only covered by the Act if it is held for
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 However, on this occasion we are happy to
provide the information below in response to your request
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 function.
With respect to the issues that you raise regarding the Equality Act 2010, we can confirm that the
BBC is covered by the Public Sector Equality Duty (the “PSED”). However, the PSED applies to
the BBC in respect of all of its functions, except for those relating to the provision of a content
service. The BBC, therefore, has a partial exemption from the PSED in relation to activities which
are closely connected to providing its content in order to protect the BBC’s editorial
independence. Exempted activities include commissioning, production, casting, editorial policy and
scheduling. The BBC’s editorial decision to close the Ouch! message board would therefore be
out of scope of the PSED. This decision would also have been out of scope of the Disability
Equality Duty which was in force until 5 April 2011as the Disability Equality Duty applied to the
BBC’s public functions only and not to its activities related to output.
Whilst the BBC’s decision regarding the Ouch! message board is exempted, we can confirm that
the move of Ouch! from Learning to News was discussed in detail as we were committed to
continuing to provide Ouch! with a platform. The BBC's plans to close a range of message boards
shaped the new format of Ouch!. We have given the Ouch! community a month to continue
discussions and reconnect elsewhere, including the Ouch! Facebook page, and the Ouch! blog will
continue to host comments in the future as well. The BBC's Webwise site has a number of
informative pages about safety online and how to understand new online communities which we
will be linking to. The team will also be researching specific advice and experiences around mental
wellbeing online and sharing this with Ouch! users.
You may also be interested to know that the BBC’s Diversity Strategy sets out clear strategic
equality and diversity objectives which highlight our commitments across our business and which
include to 'connect with our audiences, including our underserved audiences, using different
methods to inform the quality and direction of our content' and to 'achieve systematic and
consistent consideration of equality and diversity within BBC planning and review processes, and
meet our public purposes and duties'. More information on the Strategy can be found at this link:
We hope you find this information useful.
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 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 telephone 01625 545 700. http://www.ico.gov.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.
Legal and Business Affairs Manager
Future Media and Technology Divisions
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 and S4C are the only broadcasters 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 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.
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 Information.
The Act does apply to all of the other information we hold about the management and
running of the BBC. 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 Europe's most widely visited content site. 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 BBC Trust (the sovereign body within the BBC) to
ensure that the organisation delivers against this remit by setting key objectives, approving
strategy and policy, and monitoring and assessing performance. The Trustees also safeguard
the BBC's independence and ensure the Corporation is accountable to its audiences and to
Day-to-day operations are run by the Director-General and his senior management team, the
Executive Board. All BBC output in the UK is funded by an annual Licence Fee. This is
determined and regularly reviewed by Parliament. Each year, the BBC publishes an Annual
Report & Accounts, and reports to Parliament on how it has delivered against its public