NUJ boss hits out at BBC for 'censoring'FoI documents

Caitlin Pike

Documents released by the BBC in response to the NUJ’s Freedom of
Information request for material relating to planned job cuts at the
corporation have had “huge chunks” censored, the union has claimed.

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said the union is now preparing to
appeal for further information from the BBC as it continues to pursue
its FoI request for background files on the job cuts.

The NUJ
served the FoI request on the BBC in April, demanding access to
minutes, correspondence and copies of analysis and reports provided to
BBC governors before they approved director general Mark Thompson’s
plan to cut almost 4,000 jobs.

The union also asked to see records or details of communication between the BBC and the Government over the past year.

In response to the NUJ’s request the BBC published more than 50 documents, running to more than 200 pages, at the end of May.

Dear
said he has been going through the published documents “with a fine
tooth comb”, but claimed “huge chunks” of the files had been censored.

“Despite
publishing these documents, the BBC has removed a large amount of
information from them under various exemptions of the FoI Act. Anything
that is controversial within the documents – anything that could have a
possible impact has been blanked out,” he claimed.

Dear added the NUJ was preparing to ask for more information and would possibly appeal to the information commissioner.

A
BBC spokesman said: “We havereleased more than 200 pages of internal
BBC documentation in response to this FoI request from the NUJ. There
are, however, some pieces of information in these documents which we
have withheld, for instance on grounds of commercial confidentiality.

“It
is not appropriate, for instance, for the BBC to release information
which would cause the BBC (and therefore indirectly the licence-fee
payer) commercial prejudice – for instance potentially prejudicing
forthcoming negotiations or revealing the BBC’s future strategy to its
competitors.

“On balance, therefore, releasing this information
would not be in the public interest. To be clear, though, all the BBC
is doing by withholding some information is applying exemptions which
are also used legitimately by other public sector organisations when
dealing with FoI requests.”

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