BBC: Kate Hoey criticises 'unaccountable' institution
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The renowned Brexit campaigner and former Labour MP said limits on Freedom of Information (FOI) requests meant it was difficult to challenge the broadcaster. The BBC can reject FOIs submitted if it relates to journalism, art or literature.
But speaking in the chamber this afternoon, Baroness Hoey accused the corporation of exploiting the law to withhold information.
She said: “The BBC is a huge institution which took £3.5billion from the public last year, yet it’s the least transparent in its attitudes to Freedom of Information request, using journalism is this wide way of getting out of FOI.”
Using an example from Northern Ireland to highlight her frustration, she added: “BBC NI is particularly bad, they’ve refused an FOI to even tell us how much they pay polling company, Lucid Talk, who they employ then they could have used other polls that are already there.”
Calling the BBC “unaccountable”, she pushed for the FOI rules to be changed to “ensure the BBC becomes more transparent and more accountable for our money”.
Anyone who makes use of the BBC’s services must pay around £159 a year.
Baroness Hoey’s criticism was one of a number levelled at the corporation by peers.
Baroness Redfern also demanded more transparency from the corporation.
She said rules on employees pay should be made stricter to help the public understand if they are getting value for their licence fee.
“The BBC has to be held to account and deliver high standards, particularly because of the unique way in which it’s funded,” she said.
Pushing for change, the Baroness asked: “Although there is a requirement for the BBC to publish salaries over £150,000, should the threshold be further reduced to say £100,000 in order to further inform and create more transparency and clarity which would therefore help satisfy the general public?”
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In the face of the push for change from peers, the Government said there were no plans to alter current FOI legislation but that a review into the BBC taking place next year would consider whether broadcaster was sufficiently transparent and accountable.
The BBC is governed by a Royal Charter which sets out its terms of operation.
The last charter was agreed on in 2016 and lasts for 10 years.
Baroness Barran, Digital, Culture, Media and Sport minister, told the House: “The BBC is a public authority for the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act.
“As with other public service broadcasters under the Act, the right of access extends to all information held other than that held for the purposes of journalism, art, or literature.
“There are no plans to amend this provision.”
She added there was “a very clear objective in the last charter review was to deliver greater transparency on the part of the BBC”.
“There will be a mid charter review starting next year which will look to see whether the government’s mechanisms are indeed fit for purpose,” she said.
Express.co.uk has contacted the BBC for comment.
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