FOI Explained

What is the FOI Act?

The Freedom of Information Act ('the Act') was passed on 30 November 2000 and came into force in January 2005. It gives the public a right of access to all types of recorded information held by public authorities, but also sets out exemptions from that right. The term 'public authority' is defined in the Act and includes all public bodies and Government departments in the UK. The BBC and other public service broadcasters are only covered by the Act for some purposes of our work.

BBC use of the Act

The BBC, along with many other media organisations is using the Freedom of Information Act to gather information about the operation of other public bodies in order to contribute towards the making of programmes and the content of our websites. This work is part of our core journalistic function and as such is not subject to the Act.

More on how the BBC is using the FOI Act

Key facts about the FOI Act

  • Encourages an organisation to be open and transparent
  • Applies to Public Authorities.
  • Affects everyone in the organisation.
  • Statutory duty to implement.
  • Allows anyone, no matter who they are or where they live to make a request for information.
  • Is retrospective in nature.
  • Works in conjunction with the Data Protection Act.
  • 20 working days to respond to request.
  • Specifies exemptions covering information that does not have to be released.
  • Requires the BBC to set up and maintain a publication scheme that tells the public what information is held.
  • Is regulated by the Information Commissioners Office.

Commercial Subsidiaries

The BBC's commercial subsidiaries are not covered by the Freedom of Information Act. Information held by our subsidiaries, such as BBC Worldwide Ltd, is only covered by the Act if it is held on behalf of the BBC.

Which organisations are affected?

The organisations that are affected by the act are:

  • Publicly funded organisations
  • Government departments
  • Local Authorities
  • Police and Police Authorities
  • National Health Service
  • The armed forces

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