BBC BLOGS - Open Secrets
« Previous | Main | Next »

Costing the maximum, or maximising the cost?

Martin Rosenbaum | 11:48 UK time, Tuesday, 24 October 2006

Naturally within the BBC there has been particular interest in the table in the Frontier Economics report on the cost of FOI which puts the BBC as the most frequent media user of FOI.

This of course is as it should be, given that the BBC is by far the biggest employer of journalists in the UK. However, there are serious doubts over the figures it contains.

The report (Table 5) estimates that the BBC puts 750 to 2,000 FOI requests annually to central government, at a cost of between £300,000 and £1,000,000.

From my knowledge I would say 750 is a plausible figure and 1,000 is conceivable, but that 2,000 is extremely unlikely. In other words the BBC level of requests could be within the range suggested in the report, but in all likelihood very much at the lower end of this range.

Next, putting this to one side and looking now at the estimated costs, the figure of £1,000,000 has been obtained by the bizarre technique of combining the very unlikely upper bound for the number of requests with the very unlikely upper bound for their cost. (This is revealed in footnote 19 - always read the footnotes, remember). The figure this produces - the £1m figure - is therefore one which is much, much more unlikely.

Sadly the report does not give enough methodological detail to calculate the real likelihood of the £1 million figure but it is clearly utterly tiny (and would be even tinier taking into account my first point about the probable number of requests). Yet the report presents it as if it is some kind of plausbile figure.

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 07:50 PM on 24 Oct 2006,
  • M wrote:

Maybe if Central Government all used open blogs, this would increase efficiency and reduce costs?

  • 2.
  • At 09:19 PM on 24 Oct 2006,
  • Diane Kurl wrote:

With the excessive journalism and the squeezing-out of basic news reporting, the BBC will have an uphill struggle gaining sympathy. Us taxpayers do have our limits, you know.

I think that a far more magnanimous solution is for the BBC to donate £1M to a government FOI fund through journalism cutbacks (especially around election time where we need less BBC comments from journos and more straight reporting). That way you may have a stronger argument for using up our money.

  • 3.
  • At 02:02 PM on 25 Oct 2006,
  • Ron King wrote:

I would be happy to submit requests for information from the government whenever your monthly "quota" is in danger of being exceeded.
I am sure there are a large number of like-minded citizens, whom the information affects, that would be more than happy to assist in this way.

  • 4.
  • At 11:30 AM on 26 Oct 2006,
  • C wrote:

Ron has a point. Perhaps someone should set up some kind of FOI match making site...

Also, it is worth bearing in mind that there is nothing to stop journalists making requests in an individual capacity, rather than as a representative of their organisation. While the BBC as a whole might hit the £600 limit pretty quickly, it has an awful lot of individuals working within it.

This post is closed to new comments.

More from this blog...

Latest contributors

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.