BBC - FOI request

The request was refused by University of Nottingham.

Dear University of Nottingham,

I am writing to you under the Freedom of Information Act to request information regarding the University's use of PR firms.

To be clear this request is seeking to understand how much is being spent on Public Relation companies and in what circumstances. We do not want marketing or communication budgets to be included. Any questions please get back to me prior to the 20 day time limit.

Can you please answer the following:
A) How much was spent per month 1st July 2017 - 31st July 2019 on PR firms?
B) What firms did you employ in this period and what were the terms of service? Please include any special projects or issues they worked on.
C) Between 1st July 2017 - 31st July 2019 did you ever employ a PR firm specifically for 'crisis management'. If so who did you employ, how much were they paid and what issue were they addressing?

Yours faithfully,

Poppy Damon
[Number Removed]

Br-Freedom-Of-Information, University of Nottingham

Dear Poppy,

Thank you for your request for information regarding PA Firms.

We are dealing with your request under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

We will respond to your request within twenty working days. Please note this is calculated from the following working day from receipt of your request.

I hope that this is of help. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any enquiries regarding this email.

Yours sincerely

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Br-Freedom-Of-Information, University of Nottingham

1 Attachment

Dear Poppy,

I am writing in response to your request for Information on the University's use of PR firms.

After considering your request, it has been decided that this information is exempt from disclosure under S43: Commercial Interests. We believe that disclosure would harm the commercial interests of the University of Nottingham and of its partners.
Section 43(2) is a qualified exemption and is subject to the public interest test. The University it is in the general public interest for it to be transparent about how it spends its funds. This promotes openness and transparency and highlights the strengths of the University.

However, there is also a public interest in ensuring the University is able to participate freely and competitively in its commercial activities and a strong public interest in universities being able to generate commercial revenue and reduce their reliance on public sector funding. Universities operate in a highly competitive environment in terms of their ability to recruit and retain students and staff. Responses to Freedom of Information requests are in the public domain and the disclosure of the requested information would be strategically useful to our competitors in the higher education sector in understanding the university's priorities, and your request needs to be considered in the context of disclosure under competition legislation as well as under the Freedom of Information Act.

Disclosure would also reveal the cost of procuring the services of any Public Relation firms, and which would therefore undermine the commercial partners ability to negotiate the best price for their services.

The University of Nottingham must be able to protect commercially sensitive information where disclosure would allow our competitors to deduce our strategic objectives and so undermine the commercial objectives of the University. Our commercial partners should not suffer commercial detriment as a consequence of having done business with the University. Having considered the public interest factors for and against disclosure, we feel that the general public interest is in favour of withholding the requested information at this time.

I trust that this meets your requirements, however if you are unhappy with the way in which your request has been handled and wish to request a review of our response or to make a complaint, then please see the attached information sheet and form.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any enquiries regarding this email.

Yours sincerely

Catherine Allin

Information Compliance and Quality Officer - Freedom of Information,
Registrar's Department
Email: [University of Nottingham request email]

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