Ministerial meeting with news publishers and technology platforms

The request was refused by Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Dear Department for Culture, Media and Sport,

I understand that earlier this week (ie. the week of 13 March), a private ministerial meeting has taken place with news publishers and technology platforms. I would like to ask for an electronic copy of any note that has been produced after the meeting to summarize or record the meeting (be this formal minutes, an informal summary for attendees, a note to ministers or senior civil servants summarizing the meeting, or otherwise).

Many thanks in advance.

Yours faithfully,

Michael Bimmler

FOI Mailbox, Department for Culture, Media and Sport

Thank you for your email which is now being dealt with by the Freedom of
Information Team at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. 
You will receive a response to your information request within 20 working
days of receipt.
  

FOI Mailbox, Department for Culture, Media and Sport

Dear Mr Bimmler,

Thank you for your information request of 17^th March as outlined below.

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

We can confirm that DCMS holds information within the scope of your
request. However, we have determined that some of this information may be
exempt from release under section 36 (Conduct of public affairs) of the
Act. This is a qualified exemption and, as such, it is necessary to carry
out a public interest test to consider whether, in all the circumstances
of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs
the public interest in disclosing the information.

By virtue of section 10(3) of the Act, where public authorities have to
carry out a public interest test, they do not have to comply with the
request until such time as is reasonable in the circumstances. Due to the
need to consider where the balance of the public interest lies in relation
to the information that you have requested, the Department will not be
able to respond to your request immediately. However, we hope to let you
have a substantive response to your request by 16^th May.

Yours sincerely,

The FOI team

FOI Mailbox, Department for Culture, Media and Sport

Dear Mr Bimmler,

Thank you for your information request dated 17^th March. You asked:

I understand that earlier this week (ie. the week of 13 March), a private
ministerial meeting has taken place with news publishers and technology
platforms. I would like to ask for an electronic copy of any note that has
been produced after the meeting to summarize or record the meeting (be
this formal minutes, an informal summary for attendees, a note to
ministers or senior civil servants summarizing the meeting, or otherwise).

 

We have dealt with your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000
(the Act). We can confirm that the Department holds this information.
However, we have determined that this information is exempt from
disclosure under section 35 (a) (formulation of government policy) of the
Act. Section 35 is a ‘qualified exemption’ and requires us to carry out a
public interest test to consider whether the balance of interest lies in
releasing or withholding the information. In considering this, we have
paid particular regard to the arguments in favour of disclosure, including
that disclosure may be of benefit because:

•         greater transparency makes government more accountable to the
electorate and increases trust;

•         the desirability of citizens being confident that decisions are
taken on the basis of the best available information;

•         knowledge that the arguments relating to a debate will be
released will in fact improve the quality of those arguments. Far from
inhibiting the frank provision of advice, there might be circumstances
where the prospect of disclosure would enhance the quality of advice.

However, while acknowledging these benefits we consider that on this
occasion the arguments for upholding the exemption and withholding the
information outweigh those in favour of disclosure. In particular,
consideration of the following factors has led us to the conclusion that
the public interest requires the exemption in section 35 to be upheld
because:

•         Ministers and their officials need space in which to develop
their thinking and explore different options in communications and
discussions. We are continuing to use the information at issue here to
inform the development of our ongoing policy;

•         Ministers and their officials need to be able to think through
all the implications of different options. In particular, they need to be
able to undertake rigorous and candid assessments of the risks to
particular programmes and projects;

•         good government depends on good decision making and this needs
to be based on the best advice available and a full consideration of all
the options - there may be a deterrent effect on external experts or
stakeholders who might be reluctant to provide advice because it might be
disclosed.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Freedom of Information Team

 

Department for Culture, Media & Sport

4th floor, 100 Parliament Street

London SW1A 2BQ

[1]www.gov.uk/dcms

 

 

Complaints and comments

As is customary in our replies, I would like to explain that if you are
dissatisfied with any aspect of our response to your request for
information and/or wish to appeal against information being withheld from
you please send full details within two calendar months of the date of
this email to:  [2][email address]

 

You have the right to ask the Information Commissioner (ICO) to
investigate any aspect of your complaint. Please note that the ICO is
likely to expect internal complaints procedures to have been exhausted
before beginning an investigation.

References

Visible links
1. http://www.gov.uk/dcms
2. mailto:[email address]

Dear Department for Culture, Media and Sport,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Department for Culture, Media and Sport's handling of my FOI request 'Ministerial meeting with news publishers and technology platforms' (your ref. 300566)

I am afraid I don't find the way you have handled the public interest test relative to the claimed s35(1) exemption particularly persuasive. It appears that you have just taken three standard arguments in favour, or against, disclosure that could be applied to almost any request falling under s35(1). I cannot see any engagement with the particular request itself, or the subject matter / policy area it relates to, in your public interest test explanation. However, as you know, the public interest is very context-dependent and needs to be considered on a case-by-case basis for each request. The simple restating of 'boilerplate' reasons is not truly a public interest test.

I look forward to hearing about the outcome of your internal review. A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/m...

Yours sincerely,

M Bimmler

FOI Mailbox, Department for Culture, Media and Sport

Thank you for your email which is now being dealt with by the Freedom of
Information Team at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. 
You will receive a response to your information request within 20 working
days of receipt.
  

no-reply@dcms.ecase.co.uk on behalf of Correspondence Team, Department for Culture, Media and Sport

Ref: FOI2017/00430 (Internal Review of CMS 300566)

Dear Mr Bimmler,

Thank you for your email of 16 May in which you requested an internal
review of your information request of 17 March. Your latest request was as
follows:

I am writing to request an internal review of Department for Culture,
Media and Sport's handling of my FOI request 'Ministerial meeting with
news publishers and technology platforms' (your ref. 300566)

I am afraid I don't find the way you have handled the public interest test
relative to the claimed s35(1) exemption particularly persuasive. It
appears that you have just taken three standard arguments in favour, or
against, disclosure that could be applied to almost any request falling
under s35(1). I cannot see any engagement with the particular request
itself, or the subject matter / policy area it relates to, in your public
interest test explanation. However, as you know, the public interest is
very context-dependent and needs to be considered on a case-by-case basis
for each request. The simple restating of 'boilerplate' reasons is not
truly a public interest test.

I look forward to hearing about the outcome of your internal review. A
full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the
Internet at this address:
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/m...

Your original request asked:

I understand that earlier this week (ie. the week of 13 March), a private
ministerial meeting has taken place with news publishers and technology
platforms. I would like to ask for an electronic copy of any note that has
been produced after the meeting to summarize or record the meeting (be
this formal minutes, an informal summary for attendees, a note to
ministers or senior civil servants summarizing the meeting, or otherwise).

I have dealt with your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000
(the Act). I have re-examined the handling and scope of your original
request and I can confirm that the department does hold information in
scope of your request. However, we have determined that this information
is exempt from disclosure under section 35 (a) (formulation of government
policy) of the Act.

Section 35 is a 'qualified exemption' and requires us to carry out a
public interest test to consider whether the balance of interest lies in
releasing or withholding the information. In this case, no policy
decisions have yet been reached on the issue of fake news - or whether
government needs to make policy in this area. For the meeting in question,
stakeholders were invited to give their frank opinions on the subject,
which will be used to inform government thinking. It is in the public
interest that Ministers are able to conduct conversations in this way
without participants being concerned that their opinions will be made
public. This leads to fuller and more frank discussions than would
otherwise be the case.

The government needs to make its decisions based on the best advice
available and a full consideration of all the options, and it would be
counter-productive to have discussions on policy stymied by the concerns
outlined above. The information at issue here will continue to inform the
development of ongoing policy on the issue of fake news and we consider
the public interest being to withhold in this case.

Yours sincerely,

Heather Batchelor

Head of Ministerial Support Team

Department for Culture, Media & Sport

4th floor, 100 Parliament Street

London SW1A 2BQ

Tel: 020 7211 6395

www.gov.uk/dcms

Complaints and comments

As is customary in our replies, I would like to explain that if you are
dissatisfied with any aspect of our response to your request for
information and/or wish to appeal against information being withheld from
you please send full details within two calendar months of the date of
this email to: [email address]

You have the right to ask the Information Commissioner (ICO) to
investigate any aspect of your complaint. Please note that the ICO is
likely to expect internal complaints procedures to have been exhausted
before beginning an investigation.

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