I would like information on how the audience was selected for BBC Question Time from Wrexham on Thursday 2nd June 2011.
1. Breakdown of home addresses of the audience into post codes (first 2 letters and first 2 numbers only) i.e LL11, SY10 or CH11.
2. Total number of people in the audience?
3. Total number of people who identified as Labour, Plaid Cymru, Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Green, UKIP, BNP, Other.
4. Total number of people in the audience who did not identify with a political party.
5. Total number of people in the audience who spoke Welsh?
6. The BBC’s criteria for selecting the audience for Question Time?
7. If one of the criteria is a knowledge of public affairs in the week before the programme, did a knowledge of Welsh devolved public affairs play and equal part in selecting the audience.
This is the reply I received:
The information you have requested is out of scope of the Act but we are happy to explain that the audience for this edition was selected according to the same principles as are applied to other editions of Question Time, that is we are looking for a broad but balancing range of views from people who are interested in the topics likely to come up. Applicants are asked detailed questions before they are acceptedto establish their views and background. The programme does not claim that in any one programme the audience is "representative" in any proportionate way of the views of the population as a whole. The overall aim is to achieve balance across the series as the audience mix will vary in different locations.
We hope you find this helpful. Please note that the information you have requested is excluded from the Act because it is held for the purposes of ‘journalism, art or literature.’ Part VI of Schedule 1 to the Act 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 by the Act 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; however, on this occasion we’re happy to provide the above information in response to your request.
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.
I frankly find their views both arrogant and condescending, firstly they state they do not conduct reviews, despite this being a legal requirement and secondly, how is audience information, being held for the purposes of 'journalism'?
I will be appealing against this decision. As a Public Service Broadcaster the BBC needs to be impartial and for the public to be able to gauge that impartiality it needs to be more open and transparent and subject to the Freedom of Information Act.