It’s never a good time for the BBC to be called onto the carpet for wasteful spending of taxpayer money. Britain’s mandatory TV tax brings the Beeb some £3.6billion annually, so their spending comes under extra scrutiny.
Now The Commentator has uncovered the BBC spent the equivalent of a half-million dollars on legal fees to cover up the Balen report.
The Balen report was commissioned by BBC in 2004 to assess its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Never publicly released, the Beeb denied 400 Freedom of Information requests — including one filed by HonestReporting. The Commentator writes:
It has now come to light that the BBC has spent almost a third of a million pounds to hide the report from the public eye: “The legal costs incurred by the BBC amount to £332,780.47,” the BBC said.
The actual cost to the BBC is likely to be far higher, as in-house legal time is not factored in and nor is Value Added Tax.
Indeed, this week, the Beeb’s outgoing Director General, Mark Thompson, painted a bleak financial picture.
“I’ve been involved in the BBC economy for decades and there are plenty of areas now, much of our journalism and many parts of TV, where, after this set of changes, I don’t see where the further room for manoeuvre is,” he said.
“One thing everyone has to confront is that a tough licence fee [settlement] will mean a loss of services. I can’t see any way round that. But we’re getting very, very close to the edge in many parts of the organisation.”
The closest thing to a frank BBC response about the cover up came from Martin Rosenbaum, who addressed FOI issues for the Beeb’s Open Secrets blog. Caught between free info and the party line, Rosenbaum wrote back in 2006:
. . . I have decided the safest thing to do is just look puzzled. That seems to work so far.
A half-million dollars is an awful lot of money. What the heck did Balen find to justify such an expensive cover-up?
Image: CC BY-SA HonestReporting, Flickr/Images_of_Money