British Broadcasting Corporation Room BC2 A4 Broadcast Centre White City Wood Lane London W12 7TP
Telephone 020 8008 2882 Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Rod MacKee email@example.com
14 May 2021
Dear Mr Rod MacKee, Freedom of Information request – RFI20210674
Thank you for your request to the BBC of 22 April 2021 seeking the following information under
the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (‘the Act’):
Can you provide me with the volume of complaints for the 20 most complained about TV
broadcasts between 30/03/2021 and the 14/04/2021 excluding the coverage of the death of
If held, the information you requested is held for the purposes of ‘art, journalism or literature’.
The Act provides that the BBC is not obliged to disclose this type of information and we will not
be disclosing the information on this occasion.
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 ‘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 .
This is an important way that the BBC and other public service broadcasters can preserve their
independence by ensuring information about matters including editorial decisions about
programming and budgets al ocated to such programming, are not subject to undue public
scrutiny. It is important that the BBC is an independent and impartial news organisation.
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. The BBC also makes a huge range of information available
about our programmes and content on bbc.co.uk.
In this case, you have also 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’. 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.
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. In particular you can read further detail about BBC Complaints here:- https://www.bbc.co.uk/contact/complaints
Additionally the BBC also publishes fortnightly reports about complaints made to the BBC, the
Executive Complaints Unit’s finding and the performance of the service available here:- https://www.bbc.co.uk/contact/complaint-service-reports
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 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
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 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 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.