BBC spent cash on parties while axing journalists

Channel 4 News has used a Freedom of Information request to reveal that the BBC spend £164,000 on TV show launch parties this year – at a time when it was cutting hundreds of journalists’ jobs.

Early this year the BBC revealed that it was to cut 1,800 jobs – between 355 and 370 were to come from news and current affairs.

The Channel 4 News FoI request has revealed that the BBC spent £45,572 on a licence fee-funded party held at the exclusive Oxo Tower restaurant in London for over 300 people to promote the TV show Merlin.

It was the biggest of four such events in 2008 at a total cost of nearly £164,000, the FoI request has revealed.

The Corporation’s chief operating officer Caroline Thomson has defended the bill.

“We don’t party for party’s sake; we choose the programmes we are going to launch at parties very carefully. We only did three BBC1 dramas last year,” she told the programme.

“When we do it, we do it because we are very proud of the programmes and we therefore do the launch in the most cost-effective way possible.

“Yes it is a lot of money, and we have to be very careful how we spend that money, but sometimes it does cost a lot of money to do these things properly.”

Other programmes launched with parties were The Passion, No 1 Ladies Detective Agency and Little Dorrit.

The BBC is one of the public bodies subject to the Freedom of Informaton but is exempted from having to disclose material held for the purposes of “journalism, art or literature”.

This exemption is due to be tested at the House of Lords by solicitor Stephen Sugar who has demanded that the corporation hand over an internal review of its reporting of the Middle East called the Balen Report.

The BBC defeated Sugar at the Court of Appeal, successfully arguing that the report was covered by its FoI exemption.

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