Mark Thompson trip to Israel for talks with Ariel Sharon

V Galer made this Freedom of Information request to British Broadcasting Corporation

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was successful.

Dear Sir or Madam,

I would like to see the minutes and/or records of the meetings held in November 2005 when BBC Director-General Mark Thompson travelled to Israel to hold talks with Ariel Sharon to help the BBC "build bridges with Israel".

Since November 2005 has Mr Mark Thompson engaged in discussion with any other Israeli leaders?

Can you please let me know whether or not Mr Thompson has held any talks with Palestinian leaders.

Finally, could you please let me know whether these trips were funded using license payers money?

I look forward to hearing from you.

FOI Enquiries, British Broadcasting Corporation

Dear Ms Galer

Thank you for your request for information under the Freedom of
Information Act 2000, about November 05 meeting in Israel between Mark
Thompson and Ariel Sharon. Your request was received on 3rd February
2009. We will 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 RFI20090237.

Kind regards

The Information Policy & Compliance Team

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

www.bbc.co.uk/foi
Email: [BBC request email]

Tel: 020 8008 2882
Fax: 020 8008 2398

show quoted sections

FOI Enquiries, British Broadcasting Corporation

1 Attachment

Dear V Galer

Please find attached the response to your request for information,
reference RFI20090237

<<RFI20090237 - final response.pdf>>
Yours sincerely
Rachel Hallett

BBC Information Policy and Compliance
Room 2252, White City
201 Wood Lane
London W12 7TS, UK

Website: [1]www.bbc.co.uk/foi
Email: [2]mailto:[BBC request email]
Tel: 020 8008 2883
Fax: 020 8008 2398

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V Galer left an annotation ()

Full response below......

Dear V Galer

RFI20090237 - Freedom of Information request

Thank you for your email of 3rd February in which you requested information under the Freedom
of Information Act 2000 (“the Act”). I have addressed your questions in turn below.

the minutes and/or records of the meetings held in November 2005 when BBC Director-General Mark
Thompson travelled to Israel to hold talks with Ariel Sharon to help the BBC "build bridges with Israel".

Mark Thompson, as Editor-in-Chief of the BBC, travelled to the Middle East for three days in
November 2005. It was one of the many routine visits he made to meet staff in all parts of the
BBC, to hear from the team and brief them on his future plans for the Corporation. He had
recently made a similar visit to the BBC’s Washington Bureau. During his visit he also took the
opportunity of engaging with local people to find out their views on the BBC’s output, including
brief meetings with the Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The meeting between Mark Thompson and Ariel Sharon was scheduled to take place between
18:30 and 20:15 on 9th November 2005.

We have searched through our central files for a record of any minutes relating to this meeting in
2005 and to the best of our knowledge this information is not held.

Since November 2005 has Mr Mark Thompson engaged in discussion with any other Israeli leaders?

Mark Thompson made the following trips to the Middle East in 2007, in connection with the
journalist Alan Johnston, who was being held hostage at the time.

10th April - 12th April
2nd - 4th May
30th May - 1st June

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The BBC will not disclose any more detailed information about these visits. We consider this
information would be exempt under section 38(b) of the FOI Act, as releasing this information
“would, or would be likely to…endanger the safety of any individual”. As you may be aware, the
BBC is under a legal as well as moral duty to act to protect the health and safety of its employees.
In this case, one of the BBC's employees faced the threat of an imminent and unlawful death. As a
media organisation, there is always a threat that one of the BBC’s reporters (or in fact a non BBC
reporter) may be kidnapped whilst doing their job. The information you have requested could be
used to identify the process undertaken to help obtain Alan Johnston’s release. Releasing this
information to the public would be likely to result in these methods having less effect if the same
situation arose in the future, the result being that it could unnecessarily endanger the safety of
reporters in the future.

Can you please let me know whether or not Mr Thompson has held any talks with Palestinian leaders.

During the visit mentioned above in November 2005, time was also set aside for meetings with
senior Palestinians (including Mahmoud Abbas and Diana Buttu).

Finally, could you please let me know whether these trips were funded using license payers money?

I can confirm that these trips were funded from the BBC’s income, which includes both money
raised by the licence fee, and other sources of income, for example profit from the BBC’s
commercial subsidiaries. You can see more about the BBC’s income in the BBC’s Annual Report
and Accounts, available online at http://www.bbc.co.uk/annualreport/ ; please see table 1b on page
106.

Please note that, with the exception of the information relating to the 2007 visits made for the
purpose of discussing the kidnapping of Alan Johnston, the information you have requested is
outside the scope of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (“the Act”). This is because the BBC
and the other public service broadcasters are covered by the Act only in respect of information
held for purposes “other than those of journalism, art or literature” (see Schedule I, Part VI of the
Act)1. We are not therefore obliged 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.
However, on this occasion we’re happy to respond to your request by providing the information
given above.

Appeal Rights

If you are not satisfied with this response you have the right to an internal review by a BBC senior
manager or legal adviser. Please contact us at the address above, explaining what you would like us
to review and including your reference number. If you are not satisfied with the internal review,
you can appeal to the Information Commissioner.

1 For more information about how the Act applies to the BBC please see www.bbc.co.uk/foi. Please note that this
guidance is not intended to be a comprehensive legal interpretation of how the Act applies to the BBC.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The contact details are: Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane,
Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF, telephone 01625 545 700 or see http://www.ico.gov.uk/
Please note that 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 directly to the Information
Commissioner.

Yours sincerely

Rachel Hallett
Advisor, Information Policy & Compliance