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Sugar Appeal

Martin Rosenbaum | 12:21 UK time, Friday, 25 January 2008

Regular readers of this blog will know about the dispute between Steven Sugar and the BBC, over whether Mr Sugar should be allowed to see an internal report on the BBC's Middle East reporting which has become known as the 'Balen report'.

In the latest instalment of what has become a complex legal battle, the Appeal Court has today backed the BBC and rejected Mr Sugar's latest challenge.

It's important to note that this decision is not about the contents of the report itself. Instead it's about the legal issue as to whether the Information Tribunal has the power to overrule the Information Commissioner when the latter has decided that an information request to the BBC is outside the scope of the FOI Act because it's about information held for the purposes of journalism. The Appeal Court has agreed with the High Court and the BBC that the Tribunal did not have this power.

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 08:22 PM on 25 Jan 2008,
  • Max Sceptic wrote:

The notion that the Balen Report contains information 'held for the purposes of journalism' is b*ll*cks! The BBC hasn't been meeting with secret sources to research investigative journalism . It's not about Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein getting all cosy with Deep Throat.

I - as an enforced licence tax payer - paid for that damned report, and I damn well want to see it.

  • 2.
  • At 09:36 PM on 26 Jan 2008,
  • Joseph wrote:


The BBC can hide behind whatever legal device it wishes to, however it cannot hide from the central truth that the more you (BBC) spend licence fee money on stopping the release of this report the stench of something wrong will continue.

As Max Sceptic rightly points out your argument is rubbish, how the BBC dares to have a blog called 'Open Secrets' when it refuses to be open itself beggars belief.

I personaly support a licence fee, however, the BBC must be held accountable when it's reporting is found to be open to accusations of bias, after all what was the reason for getting Mr Balen to perform a review if you do not publish the findings?.

Perhaps the BBC should take another look at it's own survey in which only 7% of participants felt that they can trust the BBC.

Examples of bias which are known are the reporting styles of most of your Middle East reporters with obvious examples such as Barbera Plett and her infamous crying over the death of Arafat.

I imagine that the report advised the BBC to strive for a more balanced approach in it's Middle East reporting, however, I doubt very much that it shows a totally clear bias against the Israelis, however by not releasing this report you are allowing the stench of bias to fester and grow.

A quick trawl on the internet brings up over 2 million hits regarding BBC bias, so it is clear that you have a huge problem with your reputation, in fact I found sites dedicated to 'exposing bias at the BBC'!.

Indeed on one site it lists all the BBC employees who have worked for Labour, the number of these employees is amazing, so for you to not to relase the Balen report seems to reinforce the perception of bias which if you ignore could be the issue that loses the BBC it's licence fee as more and more people feel that you are out of touch and untrustworthy.

  • 3.
  • At 10:09 AM on 28 Jan 2008,
  • Michael wrote:

As I've mentioned on here elsewhere before...

If this legal battle was just about clarifying a technical legal issue, and not about withholding the report (which is something the BBC have stressed in the past), now that the legal technicality has been clarified, will the BBC choose to release the report anyway?

Call me an old cynic, but I doubt it very much. Always happy to be proved wrong though.

  • 4.
  • At 06:42 PM on 03 Feb 2008,
  • Steven wrote:

I don't think that "information held for the purposes of journalism" should be outside the FOI. Obviously sources need to be protected, but many other things should not be kept secret.

For example, if the BBC had an internal policy of avoiding certain topics or terms I think that is something the public should know.

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