Balen report challenger says “it's not over”

The Balen report may still come to light according to the London solicitor who has fought for two years for its release under the Freedom of Information Act.

Commercial solicitor Steven Sugar, from Putney, said that BBC's win today in the High Court was not a complete victory for the corporation and gives "ammunition" to those who feel it is unaccountable and incapable of reform.

He said "It is a technical win by the BBC which has the result desired by the BBC of weighting the Act in its favour and against the citizen. I hope that the Information Commissioner or the Department for Constitutional Affairs will take the point to the Court of Appeal.

"This matter is not over… The Information Commissioner may change his view given the new information he has obtained as a result of the Tribunal case. Perhaps the new BBC Trust under its new chairman, Sir Michael Lyons, will take a different view to BBC management and conclude that it is in the public interest for Mr Balen's report to be published. That would be consistent with the BBC Trust creating a new more open and accountable relationship between the BBC and the public which pays for it."

Sugar today released a letter he has sent to Lyons urging him to intervene to make the report public. It said: "The impartiality of the BBC's news coverage is central to its claim to public support. In relation to the reporting of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, there has been a great deal of criticism and in particular a number of serious reports submitted by BBC Watch in 2002 and 2003. The BBC should have addressed that criticism professionally from the outset but instead, as in relation to the Kelly affair, chose simply to defend its journalists. "Eventually, however, it did respond properly. Richard Sambrook appointed Malcolm Balen to conduct a professional review and his report went to the Journalism Board in 2005 and it initiated changes no doubt in response to deficiencies identified by Mr Balen.

"But in this whole process, the BBC is giving much ammunition to those who take the view that it is an arrogant and unaccountable bureaucracy incapable of reform."

Picture: Malcolm Balen

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