BBC journalists have unveiled
a list of revelatory stories that they obtained during the first year of full
implementation of Britain’s freedom of information law.
The BBC produced the list for MPs on the parlia-mentary constitutional affairs committee, which is reviewing how the freedom of information act (FOIA) is working.
In evidence published by parliament, but subject to corrections, the BBC says in its submission to the select committee: “Since January 2005, numerous journalists and programme makers from across different parts of the BBC have sought to make use of the freedom of information act and the environmental information regulations to research material for broadcast.
“The information obtained has led to a wide range of investigative reports.” The BBC submission then lists some of the stories it obtained through UK freedom of information laws.
The list says: “Many English secondary schools with apparently improving GCSE results are actually doing worse in English and Maths (BBC Radio 4 documentary).
“The house of lords appointments commission weakened the requirements large party donors have to satisfy for it to approve their nominations as peers (Politics Show, BBC1).
“Surgeons and other hospital staff disciplined over alcohol and drug-related incidents (Real Story, BBC1).
“Internal police guidelines advise against breaking up illegal hunts and making arrests (Ten O’Clock News, BBC1).
“The metropolitan police special branch infiltrated and monitored the anti-apartheid movement in Britain for 25 years (BBC Radio 4 documentary).
“Vaccines for TB were manufactured under strength (Money Programme, BBC2).
“The foreign office tried to hide the assistance it gave Israel in the 1950s with setting up a nuclear weapons programme (Newsnight, BBC2).
“A growing number of women from overseas are travelling to Britain to give birth in NHS hospitals (BBC News Online).
“The airline catering company Gate Gourmet was criticised by food hygiene inspectors (BBC Radio 4 documentary).
“Allegations of abuse and torture by British intell-igence officers in the years after World War 2 (Document, BBC Radio 4).
“E-mails within a primary care trust expressing concern that decisions were being overturned for political reasons (Panorama, BBC1).”
The BBC also listed some of the stories, resulting from UK freedom of information laws, broadcast at regional level.
“There were nine suspected homicides involving people in the care of the Welsh NHS in under two years (BBC Wales).
“Warnings over the future of the lake which is the main source of Northern Ireland’s drinking water (BBC Northern Ireland).
“Very high hourly rates paid to Scottish GPs for out-of-hours working (BBC Scotland).
“Children as young as seven caught carrying knives in school (BBC East Midlands).
“The nuclear installations inspectorate expressed worries about the state of the graphite core at Oldbury nuclear power station (BBC West).
The submission adds: “The BBC believes that these reports are in the public interest. They would have been much more difficult, and in many cases impossible, without FOIA and/or the environmental information regulations.
“To that extent, freedom of information has proved a useful tool enabling our journalists to put into the public domain material which should indeed be there.
“However, this is only part of the story. The BBC’s overall impression of how public authorities are implementing FOIA is that matters are patchy. Some authorities are efficient, co-operative and happy to provide ‘advice and assistance’ in accordance with the act. Others have been slow and, in some cases, obstructive.”
Comment on this article
‘We’re trying our best and we’re getting tougher’