The BBC has been plunged into a transparency row after data revealed it refuses to answer more than a third of the Freedom of Information requests it receives by relying on a specialised excuse, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.
The public service broadcaster, which charges households a £145.50 licence fee every year, has been criticised after data showed it failed to fully respond to 3,110 requests out of a possible 9,076 between September 2011 and March this year.
It told those who had their requests refused that it did not have to release the information as it was held for the “purposes of journalism, art or literature” – a clause that only a handful of organisations can use. In December 2011, more than half of all requests were rejected using this clause.
Rejected requests include how many times tripe has appeared on cookery shows and the ongoing costs of maintaining BBC Three, which was moved online in February. Questions about the clothing allowance given to presenters and forecasters, the cost of Radio 1’s Big Weekend and how many Twitter accounts the corporation uses were also refused.
One MP told The Daily Telegraph, which obtained the data through a FOI request, the BBC’s lack of transparency was unacceptable as he called for the corporation to be held accountable.
Andrew Bridgen, Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire, said: “The BBC want all the security of being funded by the taxpayer but all the privileges of being treated like a private sector business.
“There is no other area of public sector spending where there is the lack of transparency that there is at the BBC.
“Because of their funding mechanism, which is effectively a TV poll tax backed up by criminality, the BBC has huge power without being held accountable. I’m hoping the new charter renewal will offer the licence fee paying public more accountability.”