As soon as I’d had a chance to look at the list of attendees at the BBC’s 2006 Climate Change - the Challenge to Broadcasting seminar that Maurizio found on Monday night I wrote to the Litigation Department of the BBC . People who are fortunate enough to be unfamiliar with court proceedings may not be aware that there is a lot of behind the scenes contact between the parties about the ‘housekeeping’ practicalities of getting the case to court in good order. These generally take place in a spirit of cordial cooperation and in this case have been going on for several years. Getting on with the other side, and even having the odd giggle about this-and-that when the judge isn’t present, make life more pleasant and in no way impede anyone’s will to win. When the time comes, business is business, and no hard feelings.
So this is the email I sent the BBC on Tuesday morning:
In view of the decision of the Tribunal received last week, I am considering seeking permission to appeal and I understand that I have 28 days from the date of the decision to do so.
It would greatly assist me if the BBC would confirm or deny that a document published on the internet last evening is the participants list that formed part of the withheld information and which was also the main focus of the Tribunal hearing.
The report that I am referring to can be found here:
On Wednesday morning I emailed again asking for confirmation that my message had been received, something I don’t think I’ve had to do before with the BBC. It had of course occurred to me that the solicitor I had written to would need to take instructions from her clients, BBC management, and that my request might be causing some head-scratching. Again no answer.
Then yesterday evening (Thursday) a response arrived. This confirmed that my messages had been received and went on to explain that the Information Tribunal had found that the information I requested was held by the BBC for the purpose of journalism. Therefore the BBC had correctly applied the designation under the FOIA that allows them to withhold such information. So the BBC are not required to disclose any information and will not comment on the list of names that I referred to.
In other words, the BBC will neither confirm nor deny that the list that is available on the Wayback Machine is the real thing.
Although this may make sense in purely legalistic terms, I suspect that the BBC Litigation department’s clients may be suffering from a serious common sense deficit. Do they really think that if they stay shtum this scandal will go away, rather than continue to snowball?
My feeling is that there will have to be a cataclysm at the BBC before the mists of arrogance and the type of groupthink that may be described as ‘the BBC culture’ can be dispersed. But will there be anything worth salvaging at Broadcasting House then?