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BBC awaits ruling

by: Leslie Bunder - Last updated: 2007-03-29



A High Court ruling on whether the BBC is allowed to suppress releasing what it calls an "internal review" into its coverage of Israel and the Middle East is set be given in the next few weeks.

Following a request by solicitor Steven Sugar under the Freedom of Information Act to see the report, the BBC refused to provide it saying the Act does not apply to the report.

According to The Guardian, Mr Justice Davis said he would rule, that the information tribunal had no jurisdiction to hear the case.

If that is the case, it would come as a major blow to Sugar.

"It creates very considerable difficulties for the administration of the Freedom of Information Act and is against the public interest. The judge himself said he was very unhappy about the outcome," he said.

Sugar added: "We don't have the judgment yet, but it will probably mean that, if members of the public cannot go to the tribunal, the only way they will be able to challenge decisions of the information commissioner will be to seek judicial review at the high court, which can be very expensive.

The report by Malcolm Balen was written in 2004 and according to the BBC, was "an internal review of programme content, to inform future output" and not for publication.

At the High Court, the BBC is fighting to keep the report secret despite a ruling last summer by the information tribunal that it should be made available under the Freedom of Information Act.

A spokeswoman for the BBC said it was "asking the High Court to reconsider the Information Tribunal’s decision that Mr Balen’s review was covered by the Freedom of Information Act because it is very important that it obtains clarification from the courts about the extent to which the Act applies".