News that 20 former BBC staff claiming sexual harassment had spoken out to The Sunday Times about the gagging clauses they had been asked to sign prompted a wave of BBC-bashing across Fleet Street.
But Axegrinder wondered how many hundreds of hacks and hackettes had taken hush-money from news organisations over the years after leaving news organisations with complaints of bullying, sexism and God-knows what else.
Press Gazette contacted every national newspaper plus Sky News and ITN to find out if they ever asked leaving journalists to sign confidentiality agreements.
It was a somewhat mischievous request because such clauses are pretty standard in any compromise agreement made with a member of staff as an alternative to going through the employment tribunal process.
Still, the responses were illuminating and show that after Leveson most of our national news organisations remain as secretive as ever. Typical responses were: “we don’t comment on personnel issues”, “sorry can’t help on this” and “we won’t be commenting on this”.
Only The Guardian and the Standard/Independent had the courage to reveal openly that sometimes they have to be less than open.
From the Standard/Indy: “Confidentiality agreements may be made with departing journalists from time to time, but obviously only in relation to personal and private matters, not to prevent the discussion of issues that are in the public interest.”
Guardian News and Media: “In line with standard practices among UK businesses, Guardian News & Media does use compromise agreements in certain circumstances.”