The BBC’s FoI unit is the nerve centre for outgoing requests made within the corporation. While there is no obligation for requests from programmes to go through the unit, headed by journalist Martin Rosenbaum, the office operates as a point of reference for any journalist needing information on FoI.
As the UK’s largest employer of journalists, Rosenbaum said that the corporation was against the proposed changes.
He told Press Gazette: ‘The BBC has already sent a letter to Lord Falconer stressing that is entirely opposed to the changes that the Government is proposing.
‘The BBC is in a unique position because it both makes and receives FoI requests. The BBC’s position is that the changes will very dramatically curtail its use of FoI.
‘It would mean that a whole range of stories that the BBC would want to put into the public domain, we would no longer be able to, and the public would be deprived of information.
‘From the other perspective of the BBC receiving requests, the BBC’s position is that there is no need for these changes – so the BBC position is very strongly opposed.’The BBC’s FoI unit was established three years ago after Rosenbaum won a Reuters fellowship to study how journalists in Ireland and Sweden use FoI.
Sweden has the oldest FoI legislation in the world, whereas Ireland posed a similar model to the UK where the legislation had caused a lot of problems for the Government, who were then trying to roll back on it and introduced fees for requests.
Rosenbaum said that the Act has affected journalism even more than he had initially expected, and that the BBC had made considerable use of it.
However he has admitted on his blog that because the BBC ‘doesn’t always respond to FoI requesters by sending them all the information they asked for”, some people thought that it was guilty of ‘breathtaking hypocrisy”.
He wrote: ‘My point of view is that no public authority subject to FoI is bound to release everything it’s asked for, and it would be bizarre to argue that just because the BBC gets FoI requests it should be disbarred from making any.”