Secret Data Sunday – BBC Edition Part 1

If you have spent any time on this blog you know that D3 Systems, together with KA Research Limited, fielded a lot of polls in Iraq during the occupation and that the ones I’ve managed to analyze show extensive evidence of containing fabricated data.

Some such polls were commissioned by ABC news and won big awards.  But ABC news and their pollster (Gary Langer) refuse to share their data.  This is a pretty good indication that they are well aware of the rot in their house.

It turns out that ABC news was not the sole sponsor of the series of polls in questions.  The BBC was a cosponsor.  So I figured that rather than beating my head against the wall with ABC and Gary Langer I would try with the BBC.

Sadly, it turns out that the BBC stone wall is just as solid as the ABC-Langer one.  In fact, the BBC was so stout in hiding the truth that I’ll need multiple posts to cover their reaction to the news that they are distorting the historical record on the the Iraq war.

So let’s get started.

My first try was a Freedom of Information request to the BBC asking for the data.  The one thing I learned from this denied request is that the BBC is pretty much immune to FOIA.  All they have to do is say that they plan to use the thing you want for artistic or journalistic purposes and they are done.  They don’t have to actually use what you want for such purposes – it is enough to just claim that they have a vague intention of doing so.

Below I reproduce the BBC letter which also pretty much reproduces my request.  (The formatting came out a little weird here but it should be readable.)

 

British Broadcasting Corporation Room BC2 A4 Broadcast Centre White City Wood Lane London W12 7TP
Telephone 020 8008 2882

Email foi@bbc.co.uk

Information Rights

bbc.co.uk/foi bbc.co.uk/privacy
Professor Michael Spagat

Via email: M.Spagat@rhul.ac.uk

4th May 2016
Dear M Spagat,

Freedom of Information request – RFI20160727
Thank you for your request to the BBC of 5th April 2016, seeking the following information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000:

I would like to request the datasets from six opinion polls conducted in Iraq for which BBC was a sponsor. I list them below together with links that may be helpful. The list is taken from the web site of ABC news but the BBC is a sponsor on all these polls and must have the original datasets. I want to be clear that I am asking for the detailed datasets, not just tables of processed results. If it isuseful I could send a similar dataset. But what I’m asking for should be the form in which the contractor provided the data to the BBC in the first place.

Thank you very much for your cooperation.

Here is the list:
2009
Field dates: Feb. 17 – 25, 2009
Details: 2,228 interviews via 446 sampling points, oversamples in Anbar province, Basra city, Kirkuk city,
Mosul and Sadr City in Baghdad.
Media partners: ABC/BBC/NHK
Field work: D3 Systems of Vienna, Va., and KA Research Ltd. of Istanbul
Analysis
Interviewer journal
Photo slideshow
Chart slideshow
PDF with full questionnaire
2008
Field dates: Feb. 12 – 20, 2008
Details: 2,228 interviews via 461 sampling points, oversamples in Anbar province, Basra city, Kirkuk city, Mosul and Sadr City in Baghdad. Media partners: ABC/BBC/ARD/NHK Field work: D3 Systems of Vienna, Va., and KA Research Ltd. of Istanbul Analysis Interviewer journal Photo slideshow Chart slideshow PDF with full questionnaire

2007

Field dates: Aug. 17-24, 2007 Details: 2,212 interviews via 457 sampling points, oversamples in Anbar province, Basra city, Kirkuk city and Sadr City in Baghdad Media partners: ABC/BBC/NHK Field work: D3 Systems of Vienna, Va., and KA Research Ltd. of Istanbul, Turkey. Analysis Interviewer journal Photo slideshow Chart slideshow PDF with full questionnaire

2007

Field dates: Feb. 25-March 5, 2007 Details: 2,212 interviews via 458 sampling points, oversamples in Anbar province, Basra city, Kirkuk city and Sadr City in Baghdad Media partners: ABC/USA Today/BBC/ARD Field work: D3 Systems of Vienna, Va., and KA Research Ltd. of Istanbul Analysis Interviewer journal and here. Photo slideshow PDF with full questionnaire

2005

Field dates: Oct. 8-Nov. 22, 2005 Details: 1,711 interviews via 135 sampling points, oversample in Anbar province Media partners: ABC/BBC/NHK/Time/Der Spiegel Field work: Oxford Research International Analysis Photo slideshow PDF with full questionnaire 2004 Field dates: Feb. 9-28, 2004 Details: 2,737 interviews via 223 sampling points Media partners: ABC/BBC/NHK/ARD Field work: Oxford Research International PDF with full questionnaire Photo slideshow
The information you have requested is excluded from the Act because it is held for the purposes of ‘journalism, art or literature.’ The BBC is therefore not obliged to provide this information to you and will not be doing so on this occasion. Part VI of Schedule 1 to FOIA provides that information held by the BBC and the other public service broadcasters is only covered by the Act if it is held for ‘purposes other than those of journalism, art or literature”. The BBC is not required to supply information held for the purposes of creating the BBC’s output or information that supports and is closely associated with these creative activities.1
The limited application of the Act to public service broadcasters was to protect freedom of expression and the rights of the media under Article 10 European Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR”). The BBC, as a media organisation, is under a duty to impart information and ideas on all matters of public interest and the importance of this function has been recognised by the European Court of Human Rights. Maintaining our editorial independence is a crucial factor in enabling the media to fulfil this function.
That said, the BBC makes a huge range of information available about our programmes and content on bbc.co.uk. We also proactively publish information covered by the Act on our publication scheme and regularly handle requests for information under the Act.

Appeal Rights
The BBC does not offer an internal review when the information requested is not covered by the Act. If you disagree with our decision you can appeal to the Information Commissioner. The contact details are: Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow SK9 5AF. Tel: 0303 123 1113 (local rate) or 01625 545 745 (national rate) or see https://ww.ico.org.uk/ .
Please note that should the Information Commissioner’s Office decide that the Act does cover this information, exemptions under the Act might then apply.

Yours sincerely,
BBC Information Rights
1 For more information about how the Act applies to the BBC please see the enclosure which follows this letter. Please note that this guidance is not intended to be a comprehensive legal interpretation of how the Act applies to the BBC.

Freedom of Information
From January 2005 the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2000 gives a general right of access to all types of recorded information held by public authorities. The Act also sets out exemptions from that right and places a number of obligations on public authorities. The term “public authority” is defined in the Act; it includes all public bodies and government departments in the UK. The BBC, Channel 4, S4C and MG Alba are the only broadcasting organisations covered by the Act.

Application to the BBC
The BBC has a long tradition of making information available and accessible. It seeks to be open and accountable and already provides the public with a great deal of information about its activities. BBC Audience Services operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week handling telephone and written comments and queries, and the BBC’s website bbc.co.uk provides an extensive online information resource.
It is important to bear this in mind when considering the Freedom of Information Act and how it applies to the BBC. The Act does not apply to the BBC in the way it does to most public authorities in one significant respect. It recognises the different position of the BBC (as well as Channel 4 and S4C) by saying that it covers information “held for purposes other than those of journalism, art or literature”. This means the Act does not apply to information held for the purposes of creating the BBC’s output (TV, radio, online etc), or information that supports and is closely associated with these creative activities.
A great deal of information within this category is currently available from the BBC and will continue to be so. If this is the type of information you are looking for, you can check whether it is available on the BBC’s website bbc.co.uk or contact BBC Audience Services.
The Act does apply to all of the other information we hold about the management and running of the BBC.

The BBC
The BBC’s aim is to enrich people’s lives with great programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain. It broadcasts radio and television programmes on analogue and digital services in the UK. It delivers interactive services across the web, television and mobile devices. The BBC’s online service is one of Europe’s most widely visited content sites. Around the world, international multimedia broadcaster BBC World Service delivers a wide range of language and regional services on radio, TV, online and via wireless handheld devices, together with BBC World News, the commercially-funded international news and information television channel.
The BBC’s remit as a public service broadcaster is defined in the BBC Charter and Agreement. It is the responsibility of the BBC Trust (the sovereign body within the BBC) to ensure that the organisation delivers against this remit by setting key objectives, approving strategy and policy, and monitoring and assessing performance. The Trustees also safeguard the BBC’s independence and ensure the Corporation is accountable to its audiences and to Parliament.
Day-to-day operations are run by the Director-General and his senior management team, the Executive Board. All BBC output in the UK is funded by an annual Licence Fee. This is determined and regularly reviewed by Parliament. Each year, the BBC publishes an Annual Report & Accounts, and reports to Parliament on how it has delivered against its public service remit.

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