Dear British Broadcasting Corporation,

According to information made available at the time of its launch, "The [Democracy Live] site is believed to have cost just over £1m to launch and has been funded from the BBC's existing online budget... [and] has been in development for the best part of two years."[1]

Also, it is "powered by a speech-to-text system built by two companies called Blinkx and Autonomy which create transcriptions of the words spoken in the video"[2]

Now, according to "The BBC's Future Media Commissioning Process":

* For commissions under £15,000, the commissioner may select a single supplier to undertake work.

* For commissions over £15,000 but under £50,000 the BBC invites a number of suppliers to respond to a simple letter of enquiry.

* For commissions over £50,000 but under £140,000 the BBC invites a number of suppliers to respond to an invitation to tender.

* For commissions over £140,000, EU Public procurement rules may apply; and if they apply an appropriate notice will be published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) and on the BBC website.[3]

Clearly this project, according to its reported costs, would appear to lie in the final category, which means that the information should be in the public domain (ie it is not journalism) and it is necessarily made available to commercial competitors in the tendering process.

Under the Freedom of information Act, please may I be sent:

(1) The category of commissioning for the work done by Autonomy and/or Blinkx on this project from the list above.

(2) Copies of any and all tendering documents made available to potential suppliers.

(3) The number of suppliers who were invited or submitted responses to the invitation to tender (making it clear if Autonomy and Blinkx are counted as one or two).

(4) The number of suppliers on the shortlist (making it clear if Autonomy and Blinkx are counted as one or two).

(5) A copy of the contract that was signed with the chosen supplier(s).

(6) The date that this contract is scheduled to expire or be renewed.

(7) Whether this contract was classified as Qualifying External Spend, what its value was, and any other data about it that was entered into the Future Media & Technology Finance database.

This request is made owing to the difficulty in obtaining information about the underlying technology (and the lack of disclosure to the public about its design flaws) that would be disclosed by the contents of the progress reports submitted by contractors who apparently took 18 months to deploy a system that they appeared to already be marketing.[4]

A recent speech by Sir Michael Lyons, BBC Chairman, stated that one of the key goals is for the BBC to become "much more open and responsive, both to the public, and to the wider media sector." Later in his speech he presented the claim that Democracy Live was a website "that only the BBC would produce." -- a claim which is contradicted by the existence of[5]

TheyWorkForYou is a fully open resource whose internal data is publicly available for projects such as Democracy Live to make use of that would enable it to present citizens with facts about the Parliamentary votes that are cast by their representatives in their names.

People have a right to know why this available resource is not being used and -- if its omission is the result of a conscious editorial decision -- the name of the journalist or manager who can be held responsible for this decision so that we can make representations.






Yours faithfully,

Julian Todd

FOI Enquiries, British Broadcasting Corporation

Dear Mr Todd,

Thank you for your request for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, repeated below, which was received on 13 August 2010. We shall deal with your request as promptly as possible and, at the latest, within 20 working days. If you have any queries about your request please contact us at the address below.

The reference number for your request is RFI20101097.

Yours sincerely,

Information Policy and Compliance Team
BBC Freedom of Information
Room 2252
BBC White City
201 Wood Lane
London W12 7TS, UK
Email: mailto:[BBC request email]
Tel: 020 8008 2883
Fax: 020 8008 2398

show quoted sections

FOI Enquiries, British Broadcasting Corporation

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Todd,

Please find attached the response to your request for information,
reference RFI20101097.

<<RFI20101097 - final response.pdf>>

Kind regards

Louise Wright
Information Policy and Compliance

BBC Freedom of Information
Room 2252, White City
201 Wood Lane
London W12 7TS, UK

Website: [1]
Email: [2][BBC request email]
Tel: 020 8008 2883
Fax: 020 8008 2398

This e-mail (and any attachments) is confidential and may contain personal
views which are not the views of the BBC unless specifically stated.
If you have received it in error, please delete it from your system.
Do not use, copy or disclose the information in any way nor act in
reliance on it and notify the sender immediately.
Please note that the BBC monitors e-mails sent or received.
Further communication will signify your consent to this.


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2. mailto:[BBC request email]

Dear Louise Wright,

Thank you for passing on the letter of refusal to my request from the Head of Accountability, BBC News.

This is to let you know that I have submitted an application to the Information Commissioner for a decision on this case as it is clear to me that the information I have requested was created, used and is held for the purpose of procuring a pure IT service (one that has no journalistic component) from some IT companies.

The fact that these documents will have been circulated among your lists of suppliers and possibly to the OJEU, rather than among journalists seeking to build and publish a report of any kind, is proof of my claim that the 'journalism, art or literature' derogation has been applied far too liberally in this case.

Yours sincerely,

Julian Todd

Julian Todd left an annotation ()

The ICO has given this Case Reference Number FS50350144

Julian Todd left an annotation ()

The decision notice is here:

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