Tag Archives: BBC

The Archers: an  everyday story of feminist folk

Robert Henderson

The Archers is the world’s longest running radio soap opera,  having run continuously  from  1951 to the present day. It is  set in Ambridge, a fictional  farming  village in the English midlands .  In the real world such a place would  even these days be  very white,  very English and  decidedly traditional in its ways.  For most of the Archers’ existence  the fiction  generally corresponded with the reality, but two decades or so ago things changed when the producer and scriptwriters of the series decided that the programme  should  pay homage to the three gods of political correctness: race, gay rights and feminism.  Consequently,  Ambridge has had visited upon it sundry  black and Asian characters,  a raft of gays, a female engineer, a female vicar, a white English vicar married to a Hindu  and a steady flow of politically correct storylines .

This new politically correct regime introduced  rules  which the characters have to meet. Non-white characters  must  invariably be middleclass with professional jobs  such as schoolteachers or lawyers. They must never be shown behaving badly and any criticism of them or ethnic minorities generally  by white characters, a very rare event, must be done in a way to portray the  white character as being  utterly beyond the politically correct Pale. The men must be  generally stupid, feckless, weak  or  cruel, while  the women and girls must  be shown as either oppressed by their men or superior to them , for example, when school public examination results hit the Ambridge doormats  this year all  the boys in the cast  were depicted as being none too bright  academically while the girls all came through with honours and headed  for university.

All that is in a day’s politically correct  agitprop work for the writers and producer  of the programme. The politically correct issue which has been dominating the series lately is the  coercing and control  of women by their menfolk. This  is  a storyline  of a different  order to anything which has gone before in terms of  sustained  – it has lasted for a year or more –  and remarkably crude politically correct propaganda.

The central  character in this propaganda  is Helen Titchener (Louiza Patikas). She is  a member of the Archer clan and  has been  much put upon by the scriptwriters  over the years  who have used her as a vehicle for various feminist issues. She has been an anorexic who was hospitalised. More generally her life has been a  continual round of failed relationships  with men,  including  that of her live-in lover Greg the gamekeeper (I kid you not)  leaving their relationship in the most emphatic manner by blowing his brains out with a 12-bore.  In despair at not finding a man who hangs around for  long Helen has had a child (as you do in feminharpy world) by artificial insemination with sperm provided by an anonymous donor. The result is a son Henry who is now aged five.

In her mid-thirties the scriptwriters gave her  a married man Rob Titchener (Timothy Watson) as a lover and eventually he becomes her husband.    Rob is generally  depicted as what feminists fondly but mistakenly  imagine  constitutes the behaviour of an alpha male, namely, being a selfish one-dimensional  brute who simply wants to control and use women. He   is depicted as perpetually  controlling Helen but  this control includes   (in politically correct eyes)  such heinous things as not wanting her to work  too hard while she is pregnant and being concerned about  her driving whilst pregnant  after she has an accident. There are also episodes where rape is hinted at. More of that later.

The  plot also attempts to show the controlling behaviour is a matter of conditioning with Rob’s father being a blustering bully and his mother highly manipulative. This of course fits neatly with the politically correct view of humanity, whether male or female ,being nothing more than the product of their social environment.

Eventually,  whilst still pregnant with Rob’s child,  Helen tells him she is going  to leave him  and in a piece of ludicrously  clumsy plotting by the scriptwriters they make Rob  place a knife in her hands before  telling her that the only way she can leave him is by turning the knife on herself.  As Helen is well advanced in pregnancy the idea of her stabbing herself to death is particularly far fetched and it is clearly just a  device to get a knife into her hands without her picking one up herself and thus  potentially incriminating herself.

Soon after Helen has had the knife thrust into her hands her  son Henry comes into the room and Rob orders him back to bed. He has never hit Henry and does not hit him now.  At this point  Helen stabs  Rob three times and leaves him close to death. She makes no attempt to call for an ambulance. Subsequently  Helen is charged with attempted murder with an alternative charge of wounding with intent and is held on remand. Whilst in custody she gives birth to her second son whom she calls Jack and Rob calls Gideon.

After being charged Helen ends up with Anna Tregorran, the daughter of a regular Archers’ characte, Carol Tregorran , as her barrister. Not content to simply present Anna in her role as a lawyer the scriptwriters decide to both make her full of angst about her failure to win  past domestic abuse  cases and be in the midst of  the emotional upset of the recent breaking up of her marriage to  her husband Max.  But Max turns out to be Maxine, thus  breaking new ground for the Archers with its  first overt depiction of a lesbian relationship.  (Despite being very eager  to have homosexual relationships in the programme, the Archers has always been strangely  coy when it comes to girl on girl action. )

When Helen is appears in court  at her trial the scriptwriters are  seen at their most heavy handed. They  begin the trial scenes by pushing evidence which makes a conviction likely. Telling facts  are put before the courts such as Helen’s failure to ring for an ambulance after stabbing Rob,  Helen’s threat to kill Rob in front of witnesses shortly before the stabbing were and the evidence of her 5-year-old son  – the only witness to the stabbing – who does not say anything which suggests  Rob had  threatened him.

This scenario rapidly changes as the trial progresses not least because  the judge always comes up with a judgement  favourable to the defence whenever something happens which might well have caused evidence favourable to Helen to be excluded  or the trial to be abandoned. A juror tweets “Man hating lezzie. Gonna make sure she goes down.” The judge allows the case to continue with eleven jurors, without making any attempt to discover if the errant  juror  had made his views known to the rest of the jury. (If he had done so that would most probably have stopped the trial dead in its tracks.)   When Helen makes claims of repeated rape during her evidence , not having mentioned rape at all before she entered the witness box, the  prosecution unsurprisingly objects.  The judge allows the evidence to stand. Rob’s ex-wife Jess comes forward at the last moment to give evidence of Rob’s controlling behaviour towards her which includes rape. Again the judge comes down on Helen’s side by allowing Jess to give similar fact evidence.  When the jury send out a note to the judge after a few hours deliberation saying they cannot come to a unanimous verdict,  the judge makes no attempt to get the jury to press on for a while longer but at the first time of asking says he will accept a majority verdict of 10-1.

Obvious lines of questioning  were  ignored by the prosecution.  For example,  questions about what relationship  Helen had with Jess  leading to the question “When did you last meet or speak with Helen?”  As the pair of them had met at Helen’s request not long before the stabbing of Rob the prosecution could easily have left the jury with the firm belief that the pair of them had plotted against Rob.

Helen’s sudden claim from the witness box that she had been repeatedly raped by Rob because he wanted to have a child soon after they were married and Helen did not – hardly unreasonable on Rob’s part because Helen   is in her mid thirties –went virtually unexamined. An obvious line of question for the prosecution would have been to ask her about her sexual relations with Rob before they were married. Presumably Helen would have said they were normal because it is wildly improbable that a dominant male like Rob would have  gone ahead with a marriage if his intended was denying him regular sex.   At that point the prosecution would have been able to ask a simple but devastating question, viz:  If you had  regular sexual relations before marriage why weren’t you worried about getting pregnant then? Helen would either have had to say she had not worried about getting pregnant then or more plausibly that she used contraception. Either way her claim of rape would  have looked decidedly odd because if it was simply a case of getting pregnant all she would have needed to do was use some form of reliable contraception.

The height of this many stranded absurdity was reached in the hour-long jury room episode .  By the end of the trial on the evidence given it would have been reasonable to have looked for a guilty verdict on at least the lesser charge of wounding with intent, for there was no certain evidence that the stabbing had taken  place in response to a reasonable fear that either Helen or her son were under threat of assault by Rob.

The jury was a distinctly  starry one with some well known  names in British acting including  Dame Eileen Atkins, Nigel Havers and Catherine Tate . Just to make sure the jury passed the diversity test one of the jurors was a Muslim  woman Parveen and to make sure the listeners did not miss this fact the scriptwriters had one of the jurors  compliment Parveen on her “beautiful headscarf”.

The jurors made the jury in 12 Angry Men look like a model of conscientious and restrained citizens seeking the truth.  Dennis  (Graham Seed) , who was dead set on finding Helen guilty,  Catherine Tate’s Lisa  was  the working-class white woman who had little patience with the idea that Helen had acted reasonably,  while Nigel Havers’s Carl, who was the jury foreman,  railed against the injustice of excuses only being made for women in the course of recounting how the courts had given his children to his wife after they split and added insult to injury by banning him from the family home whilst requiring him to pay the mortgage.   Jury vetting is nowhere near as through or as comprehensive as it is in the USA but I really do wonder whether all of those on this fictional jury , especially Carl, would have made it through the vetting system as it now exists which includes a criminal records check.

Set against them was the terminally irritating Jackie (Eileen Atkins)  who in the hectoring tones of  what used to be called a “county”  voice kept on repeating  with excruciating condescension that the point which  mattered was whether Helen had thought she or her son were in danger.  In fact that is not all the jurors have to satisfy themselves when it comes to self-defence  under English law.  They also need to address the question of whether “ a reasonable person would regard the force used as reasonable or excessive”.  Stabbing someone three times and nearly killing them when no certain  evidence had been produced to show that Helen had reasonable grounds to fear that she or her son was in serious and imminent danger from Rob is clearly not what a reasonable person would regard  as reasonable force.  All the jury had to go on was Helen’s word that Rob had given her the knife and told her she should kill herself, a story which in itself sounded far fetched  to some of the jury –   Rob of course denied  giving Helen the knife and telling her that she should kill herself.

The end of the trial comes with ridiculous abruptness. One moment the jurors are still arguing sixteen to the dozen (with six of the eleven for conviction on one or other of the charges), the next we are back in the courtroom with the foreman of the jury giving not guilty verdicts.   No explanation is given for the sudden change of heart of the majority.  Simply  as a piece of drama  this plotting was ridiculous. It was  as if the scriptwriters   had either been told the trial had to be over by a certain date  and simply wrote implausible tosh to meet the deadline or they  could not think of a plausible way of extricating Helen from the weight of evidence against her and the attitudes they had given the jurors, both of which pointed to a guilty verdict on one or other of the charges,  and got to the verdicts of not guilty as soon as they could in the hope the vast majority of the  audience  would not  notice the implausibility of what was going on because they wanted Helen to be found not guilty.

Not content  with the criminal trial the scriptwriters then had  a custody hearing for Henry and Jack held a week or so after the end of the criminal trial. The scriptwriters have the judge who acting in  the criminal trial presiding over the custody adjudication.  At the beginning of the hearing the judge warns counsel for Rob that having heard the criminal case he is going to take a great deal of persuading if custody is  of either boy is to be given to Rob. Could this really have happened in the real world? The judge then  proceeds to give custody of both boys to Helen,  denies Rob any access to Henry and only a few hours a week of heavily supervised access to Jack/Gideon.  This is done on the grounds that Rob – who has never harmed Henry  and has been an exemplary stepfather to the boy – represents a danger to the boy, while  Helen, an unbalanced neurotic who has shown herself to be very violent indeed, is deemed to present no threat at all.

Since the trial Rob has been s portrayed as being given the cold shoulder by the residents of  Ambridge.   No one argues his case by, for example,  pointing out the seriousness of his injuries or the fact that Henry is missing him.  Instead the script writers are making him more and more angry and uncontrolled in his behaviour  to provide one suspects further justification for Helen’s acquittal and grounds for ostracism and vilification by the other characters  and there are already hints that the police may investigate the alleged rapes

This type of black and white characterisation and plotting is pure agitprop. The ideological points are made in  the most blatant way so even the dimmest listener cannot miss them and  the  villain of the piece is deliberately  left with nothing more than a handful of traits which delineate the particular  “incorrect “behaviour which must be both condemned without qualification and punished.  This despite the fact that the scriptwriters have with the characters of Rob’s parents tried to demonstrate that Rob’s behaviour is all down to his upbringing. The scriptwriters want to have their cake and eat it by both punishing  Rob and saying he not responsible . It is what Orwell called doublethink.

Doublethink also applies to the discord between the portrayal of Helen  and what she allows to happen to her. Helen  is presented as  passive being completely  lacking agency within a relationship,  despite the fact that  the scriptwriters throughout  kept on emphasising that the character  started as a confident woman very much in charge of her own life. Well, a confident and capable woman should have the  capacity to say no or to simply walk away from a bullying man. Moreover, Helen was not dependent on Rob for money as they both worked for the family business and Helen could have left Rob at any time knowing that she had a ready made refuge the family farm for both herself and her child.

Part of the purpose of the year-long storyline was to undoubtedly  attract more listeners (which it reportedly did in large numbers ), but even more it was intended as  a cautionary feminist tale. It was designed  to indoctrinate the audience  with the idea that men are often if not invariably ruthless exploiters and groomers of women, who are reduced to being sexual, emotional and psychological slaves, and that  women may  physically attack their men viciously and get away with it provided they say they are being controlled by their men and believed they were in danger.

This  propaganda has probably  been put out now because there is a recently passed piece of UK legislation – Section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 – which makes the coercion of those in a close relationship, family members or a sexual partner,   a criminal offence carrying a maximum sentence of five years. The Crown Prosecution Service  guidance on behaviours which are included in coercive control  include “Repeatedly putting them down such as telling them they are worthless” and  “Reputational damage”.    Talk about dangerously broad and subjective .

There are two complaints to make of the BBC’s resources being used to make this type of material. The first is  the utterly inept scriptwriting which most importantly  made Helen’s acquittal unbelievable; the second, the use of the BBC as a propaganda  tool in the politically correct interest.  The BBC often does this,  but the Helen/Rob propaganda tool  was extraordinarily one-eyed in intent and astonishingly  crudely  executed.

When the BBC is challenged about bias in a programme their favourite justification is that they attain balance over the whole range of BBC programmes relating to a topic. The use of the Archers over more than a year to promote the “coercion of women”  line unquestioningly is  probably the best example one could find of the BBC not only not  achieving balance over various programmes dealing with a particular subject but making no effort whatsoever to do so.

The intentions of this new law  are made crystal  clear in the Crown Prosecution Service guidance that “The Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Strategy provides an overarching framework for crimes identified as being primarily committed, but not exclusively, by men against women within a context of power and control.” Do not hold your breath waiting for a woman to be prosecuted under this law.

The Archers originally  went out in 1951  with the tagline an everyday story of simple countryfolk. Today it should  have the tagline An  everyday story of paranoid feminist folk.

How the BBC fixes the political bias of Any Questions

Robert Henderson

The programme is fixed generally because all those invited will on subjects such as race, immigration, homosexuality and feminism  toe the pc line to a large degree. (Ask yourself when was the last time you heard someone on Any Questions saying that mass immigration is an unalloyed ill). They will do this either from ideological conviction or the fear of the consequences if they become accused of a pc “crime”.

There is also a more particular built in bias which will generally result in preponderance politically correct  and left leaning answer. To demonstrate this I have compiled  the details of panel members  for a couple of recent two month runs of Any Questions – June-July 2013 and January-February 2014 (17 programmes). These details are shown at the bottom of this blog post.

Then there are  the biases produced by race, ethnicity and employment. Those who are there as right leaning representatives,  but are immigrants or the children of immigrants, members of a racial or ethnic minority or compromised by receiving public money or favours such as those bestowed on the quangocracy will often be left leaning in certain areas such as the desirability of mass immigration or the worth of public service, regardless of their nominal political orientation.

In the four months covered by the two periods chosen, the leftist, politically correct bias is clear: on every panel at least two (half the panel) of the participants are formally left leaning and in a number of cases more than two. A good example is the 28 2 2014 programme where at least three members (Hughes, Eagle, Greer)  are of the left and arguably all four because Chua being the child or immigrants and a member of an ethnic minority will in many areas automatically be pc (for example immigration)  even if she has some non pc ideas as well.

There is no example of any programme with more than two right leaning members  on it. Moreover, many of those classified as right-leaning will be right leaning only in the area of economics and even there someone who supports laissez faire economics is veering into the leftist world because the effects of globalism feed into the liberal left internationalist credo.

It is also noteworthy that although there are a few members of panels who may  reasonably be categorised as of the hard left, for example, Diane Abbott and Laurie Penny,   there is no one who represents the far right.

It is reasonable to suspect that the BBC packs all its audiences for political and current affairs programmes in a  similar way.

28 2 2014

The Bath Literature Festival with Justice Minister Simon Hughes MP, Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Maria Eagle MP, Yale Law professor and author Amy Chua, and writer and broadcaster Germaine Greer.

Political count: two left-leaning MPs (Hughes and Eagle), an immigrant and radical feminist (Greer) and an ethnic minority representative  and child of immigrants to the USA (Chua).

21 2 2014

Blundells School in Tiverton, Devon, with Secretary of State for Scotland and Lib Dem MP Alistair Carmichael, Conservative backbench MP Nadhim Zahawi MP, New Statesman columnist Laurie Penny and Labour backbench MP Frank Field.

Political count: two left leaning MPs (Field and Carmichael ), one ethnic minority  immigrant  and right leaning MP (Zahawi) and one member of the hard left (Penny).

14 2 2014

Central Hall Methodist Church in Walsall with Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee Keith Vaz MP, Fisheries and Farming Minister George Eustice MP, Pauline Black from The Selecter and UKIP Party Director Lisa Duffy.

Political count: ne Left leaning MP, immigrant  and ethnic minority representative (Vas), one right leaning  MP (Eustice), one ethnic minority  representative  (Black) and  one right leaning representative from a minor party (Duffy).

7 2 2014

Altrincham Grammar School for Girls with Defence Minister and Tory MP  Anna Soubry, journalist and poverty campaigner Jack Monroe, the Liberal Democrat MP Jeremy Browne and the Former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw MP.

Political count: one Tory MP but with a strong streak of political correctness (Soubry), two left leaning MPs (Browne and Straw) and one leftist journalist and campaigner (Monroe).

31 1 2014

Purfleet in Essex with the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles MP, Labour backbencher Diane Abbott MP, author and columnist Simon Heffer and the new Green party peer Baroness Jenny Jones

Political count: one centrist Tory MP (Pickles), one hard left MP who is the  daughter of immigrants  and an ethnic minority representative (Abbott), one right leaning journalist (Heffer) and , one hard left peer, (Jones).

24 1 2014

Gwyn Hall in Neath, with the First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, Jill Evans Plaid Cymru MEP for Wales, Conservative Vice Chairman for Campaigning, Michael Fabricant MP, and the former leader of the Liberal Party Lord Steel.

Political count: two  left leaning politicians (Jones and Evans) and one right leaning  MP (Fabricant) and one left leaning peer (Steel).

17 1 2014

Greenbank High School in Southport with the former Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Health Andy Burnham, Supermarket Ombudsman Christine Tacon and Liverpool based textiles businessman Tony Caldeira.

Political count:  one right leaning MP (Mitchell), one left leaning MP (Burnham), one member of the Quangocracy (Tacon) and one businessman who is a Tory Party supporter (Caldeira).

10 1 2014

Heythrop College in London with Justice Secretary Chris Grayling MP, Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan MP, Patrick O’Flynn the new Communications Director for UKIP and former coalition minister the Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Teather.

Political count: two left leaning MPs (Khan and Teather), one right leaning Tory MP (Grayling) and one rightist representative for a minor party (O’Flynn).

27 7 2013

Endellion, Cornwall with Lord Hattersley, writer Jessica Mann, Times columnist Phil Collins and Jacob Rees Mogg MP.

Political count: one leftist peer (Hattersley), one rightist MP (Rees-Mogg), one immigrant  who has been part of Quangocracy (Mann), one left leaning journalist (Collins) .

19  7 2013

Bridport in Dorset with Lord Ashdown, Kate Hoey MP, Baroness Julia Neuberger and former Chancellor of the Exchequer Lord Lawson.

Political count: two left leaning peers (Ashdown and Neuberger), one centrist Tory peer (Lawson) and one left leaning MP (Hoey). Neuberger is the daughter of an immigrant mother and a member of an ethnic minority.

12 7 2013

Bushey in Hertfordshire with Chuka Umunna Shadow Business Secretary, Vice Chairman of the Society of Business Economists Bronwyn Curtis, Grant Shapps Chairman of the Conservative Party and the Speaker’s Chaplain the Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin.

Political count: one left-leaning immigrant and member of an ethnic minority MP  (Umunna), One immigrant Australian economist (Curtis), one right leaning MP (Shapps) and one ethnic minority immigrant representative (Rose Hudson-Wilkin).

5 7 2013

from Keswick in the Lake District with Liberal Democrat President Tim Farron, Shadow Europe Minister Emma Reynolds MP, Deputy leader of UKIP Paul Nuttall and Leader of the 1922 Committee Graham Brady MP.

Political count: two left leaning MPs (Farron and Reynolds), one right leaning member of a minor party  (Nuttall) and one right leaning MP (Brady).

28 6 2013

Titchfield in Hampshire with John Denham MP, Chair of the Public Administration Select Committee Bernard Jenkin MP, Chair of the Bar Council Maura McGowan QC and Minister of State for Justice Lord McNally.

Political count: one left leaning MP (Denham), one right leaning MP (Jenkin), one criminal lawyer  with no obvious political affiliation (McGowan) and , one left leaning peer (McNally).

21 6 2013

Purley in Croydon. The panel are Labour peer Baroness Oona King; editor of Prospect magazine Bronwen Maddox, Foreign and Commonwealth minister Alistair Burt and the novelist, journalist and human rights activist Joan Smith.

Political count: one left leaning ethnic representative peer (King), one right leaning journalist (Maddox), one right leaning MP (Burt) and one left leaning journalist (Smith).

14 6 2013

Great Yarmouth Racecourse in Norfolk with Daniel Hannan MEP, commentator Mehdi Hasan, Communities and Local Government Minister Don Foster MP and Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Mary Creagh MP.

Political count: one right leaning MEP (Hannan), one son of immigrants and left leaning ethnic minority representative journalist (Medhi Hassan) and two left leaning MPs (Foster and Creagh)

7 6 2013

The Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth, Wales with Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Owen Paterson MP, Labour’s Peter Hain MP, Leader of Plaid Cymru Leanne Woods, and commentator James Delingpole.

Political count: one right leaning MP (Paterson) one left leaning MP (Hain), one hard left representative (Woods)  and one rightist journalist (Delingpole).

1 6 2013

Slough in Berkshire. The panel includes the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers MP, the director of the think-tank British Future Sunder Katwala, Business woman Julie White and Labour peer Lord Adonis.

Political count: one right leaning MP (Villiers), one left leaning ethnic minority representative who is the son of immigrants (Katwala), one business woman whose company D-Drill gets a good deal of its work from government (White) and one left leaning peer (Adonis).

Replacing the BBC licence fee

Robert Henderson

I have always had objections to the licence fee. It is a poll tax enforced by an extensive and expensive bureaucracy armed with extensive powers to harass the public. The practical consequences of the fee are the poor subsidising the rich and thousands of the poor, mostly women, brought before the courts each year for non-payment of the licence fee. The last is far from being a small matter because recently it has been revealed that an incredible ten per cent of court cases in the UK (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/bbc/10256679/TV-licence-offences-account-for-one-in-ten-UK-court-cases.html).

But whether or not you think the licence fee is the best solution to funding public service broadcasting (PSB), your opinion  will become academic in the foreseeable future  because the technology is moving on rapidly. TVs as we know them will  be on the way out by the time the BBC charter comes up for renewal in 2016, as computers (and conceivably something completely new) become the means to view what we now call television. (A tax on personal computers is currently being mooted. Take it from a retired Inland Revenue Officer, this  is administratively bonkers).

The alternatives to the licence fee fill defenders of PSB with horror, and in most instances, justifiably so. Voluntary subscriptions could never provide the necessary finance and advertising would corrupt programming because of the need to draw audiences.

But there is one means of funding which could preserve the status quo – direct funding by the taxpayer. I have never understood the objection in principle to this. If direct funding could be cut off or reduced at any time by a Government, so can the licence fee. In principle, Parliament could pass a Bill tomorrow overturning the BBC’s current charter. More realistically, a future Government could simply decide to destroy or at least severely emasculate the BBC through legislative action.

Can anyone honestly say that the World Service (WS), which is (and always has been) directly funded by the taxpayer, has been the creature of any government? Has any government seriously reduced WS funding because it did not do what the government wanted? I think most people would give a pretty firm no to both questions. The BBC domestic service is in fact already receiving substantial direct payments from the taxpayer in the shape of  payments of around œ400 pa to compensate the BBC for the licence fee exemptions made for the over-75s. Has that made any noticeable difference in the relationship between the BBC and the Government?

Direct funding could be guaranteed on the same basis as the licence fee, a ten-year charter with a guarantee that direct funding would last for the period of the charter. Ideally, the funding would be linked to some objective criteria such as a proportion of the total UK broadcasting spend and adjusted annually according to whatever the total UK spend was for the past year. This would both guard against politicians interfering during the period of the charter and  provide less opportunity for the private side of the industry to complain about unfair competition because the proportion of the overall UK spend would remain static. That would remove the private sector fear that the BBC’s seemingly remorseless expansion will have limits. The BBC could strengthen their position further in that respect if they eschewed any active commercial activity beyond selling programmes which they have made in-house or funded directly from an independent production company.

Direct funding would also improve the relationship between the BBC and the public. All experience shows that direct payment by the individual is what causes friction. Hence, the Council Tax causes more friction than paying income tax, VAT etc from which central government pays the majority of local council spending. Hide the expenditure in general taxation and complaints usually die. Even the most  belligerent member of the “Why should I pay the licence fee when I don’t watch the BBC” brigade would find it difficult to rally under a “Why should I pay my taxes to directly fund the BBC” banner.

In the end PSB is reliant on what politicians do. But  there are several good reasons why they would not willingly damage the BBC. To begin with politicians are human beings (just)  and many have an affection for the Corporation. A substantial hard-core are committed to PSB in principle. Others see it as a prestigious British institution which deserves to be preserved for that reason. There are also the base political reasons. The first is obvious: dismantling or seriously damaging an organisation as large and influential as the BBC would be a risky business for any government, which would risk being caught in pincer movement of journalistic wrath and public resentment at the loss of a unique service (the BBC is one of those institutions which will not be truly appreciated until it ism not there).

The second base reason is wonderfully self-serving and simple. The continued existence of the BBC is convenient for politicians, because it provides them with political coverage and opportunities which no private broadcaster can offer. This advantage may grow as privately financed  broadcasting becomes increasingly fragmented in the future. Politicians need large audiences. Broadcasts with small and diminishing audiences is not what they want. If the BBC  continues to exist in something like its present size and importance, a large audience can be guaranteed.

In an ideal world, the public would have such elevated tastes that PSB would not be necessary because only the best programmes would be broadcast as the market acted to select them. However, the world being far from perfect, PSB funded by the taxpayer offers the best hope for broadcasting which is not driven solely or largely by the meretricious hand of demand.

Piers Morgan’s illegal receipt of information from the police, his perjury and Operation Elveden

Robert Henderson

On Monday 21 January I went to New Scotland Yard (NSY) with the intention of providing evidence to Operation Elveden  of Piers Morgan  and Jeff Edwards’ receipt of information illegally from the police and their perjury before the  Leveson Inquiry when they lied under oath.

I was unable to gain entry. Those on the entrance were insistent  that I would have to make an  appointment.  (I cannot help  but wonder what would have happened if I had turned up without an appointment to give, for example, evidence about a murder or terrorist plot: would it have been  “Sorry sir, we can’t see you without an appointment”?)  I  rang from outside the NSY   to try and arrange an immediate  appointment only to be told by the Met’s central switchboard that  no one was available to make the appointment. I left my details and a civilian worker phoned me later in the day and made an appointment for the local police  to visit me at 11.00 am on 22 January.  He gave me the case  reference CAD 3124/2/Jan.

Two uniformed PCs turned up from Holborn police station (I gave them the  details, but as they admitted themselves, the case was more than a little out of their normal range of work.   (That was precisely why I had gone directly to the NSY rather than ringing to make an appointment. I knew if I tried to make an appointment I would in all probability be  directed  to my local police station.  Some people may think it is a very curious thing that Operation Elveden does not have a direct phone line or public email address for those wishing to give information to use ).  In the circumstances I could do no more than run through the details  and pass on to the two PCs  the following documents:

1.Piers Morgan’s Letter to the PCC date 16 October 1997  in which he admits receiving information from the police in circumstances which can only have been illegal.  (https://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2011/12/20/piers-morgan-lied-to-the-leveson-inquiry/)

2. A copy of the Daily Mirror  story about me dated 25 March 1997 which produced the complaint to the PCC  which caused  Morgan to write the letter in which he admitted receiving information from the police in circumstances which can only have been illegal.  (https://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2011/04/17/the-failure-to-charge-piers-morgan-with-illicitly-receiving-information-from-the-police/)

3. Copies of the then director of Presswise Mike Jempson’s correspondence on my behalf with the PCC relating to the Mirror story dated 23 December 1997, 9 January 1998, 20 January 1998, 18 February 1998, 2 March 1998.

4. My evidence to the Leveson Inquiry of  Morgan ’s perjury dated 23 December 2011 (https://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2011/12/22/referral-of-piers-morgans-perjury-to-the-leveson-inquiry/).

5. My evidence to  the Leveson Inquiry of Edwards’ perjury dated 25 March 2012 (https://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2012/03/26/leveson-inquiry-jeff-edwards-and-another-prima-facie-case-of-perjury/).

6. My original submission to the Leveson Inquiry dated 25 November  2011 (https://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2011/11/25/the-leveson-inquiry-the-blairs-the-mirror-the-police-and-me/)

7. Sir Richard Body’s Early Day Motion 10th November 1999 which dealt with the general context of the events surrounding the Mirror story  with the role of the Blairs at its heart. (https://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/when-tony-and-cherie-blair-tried-to-have-me-jailed/)

8. A copy of my Wisden Cricket Article Is it in the Blood? (from the July 1995 edition). It was my gross mistreatment by the mainstream British media after the publication of the article that led me ultimately to write to the Blairs asking for their assistance after all other available avenues of redress had failed me (http://englandcalling.wordpress.com/2011/02/15/is-it-in-the-blood-and-the-hypocrisy-of-the-media/).

9. A letter addressed to the new head of Operation Elveden Deputy Assistant Commissioner  Steve Kavanagh dated 21 January 2013.  A copy of this is below.

On the 23 January 2013 I received an email advising me that the information I had given had been forwarded to Operation Elveden and a message was left on my answerphone   asking me to contact Operation Elveden on Friday 25 January.

That the two PCs found the matter somewhat daunting is  unsurprising as  it has a very heavy political loading  because of the involvement  Tony and Cherie Blair who had attempted to have me prosecuted during the first week of the 1997 General Election campaign under the Malicious Communications Act. So weak was this complaint that,  despite the Blairs’ celebrity and Labour’s  almost certain  win in the election which would make Blair Prime Minister, the Crown Prosecution Service rejected the complaint with a  firm NO CRIME on the same day it was submitted to them by the police for guidance.

I have restricted my complaints to Operation Elveden strictly to that which is within their remit.  However, these examples of criminality and misbehaviour by those with power or influence are only a small part of the overall story of the Blair Scandal.   My experience from 1997 to 2007 when Blair retired was of being in  a Kafkaesque world in which,  despite being subjected to harassment which ranged from death threats and an internet campaign which attempted incite violence against me to regular interference with my post, the police did not solve any of the crimes which I referred to them. This was scarcely surprising as they ignored the evidence I provided, no matter how strong it was.  The most blatant example of this behaviour was the failure of Det Supt Jeff Curtis of Scotland Yard  to question Piers Morgan and Jeff Edwards of the Mirror about receiving information illegally from the police even though they had the  letter from Morgan admitting he had received information from the police.  The Crown Prosecution Service and the Police Complaints Authority  backed up the failure of the police to investigate meaningfully or sufficiently by refusing any complaints of police inactivity which I referred to them.

The complicity of the elite went  far beyond crime. The mainstream media engaged in a conspiracy of silence after the publication of the Mirror story, neither allowing me a public voice nor even following up the Mirror story ;  The PCC repeatedly failed me; my MP Frank Dobson refused to help in any way, as did  institutions such as  Liberty  and the Index on Censorship. If I went to lawyers they would blanche as soon as they found the Blairs were involved and refused to act for me.

If I manage to get Operation Elveden to prosecute Blair and Edwards, it may be possible to bring the larger story to the mainstream media.    Let us hope so because one thing I can vouch for from long personal experience is that where people  with power and influence are involved the laws which govern us fall rapidly into abeyance.



Deputy Assistant Commissioner  Steve Kavanagh

Operation Eleveden

Metropolitan Police

New Scotland Yard

8/10 The Broadway

London  SW1H OBG

(Tel: 0207 230 1212)

21 January 2013

CC Gerald Howarth MP


Dear Mr Kavanagh,

I submit conclusive evidence that (1) the editor of a national newspaper  received information from the  police illicitly and (2) when questioned under oath at the Leveson Inquiry committed perjury by denying that he had ever received information illicitly from the police .

Piers Morgan

The editor in question is Piers Morgan when he edited the Daily Mirror.  The evidence of his receipt of information is beautifully simple: he admitted this in a letter to the PCC dated  16 October 1997 in which  he wrote “The police source of our article (whose identity we have a moral obligation to protect”.  If the information had been given legitimately there would be no reason for protecting the source.   Nor, because no charges were laid or investigation made, could there have been a legitimate reason  for releasing  the  information. A copy  of the letter is enclosed.

The  letter was sent to me after I complained to the PCC about a dramatically libellous article Morgan published about me on 25 March 1997  (copy enclosed).  The illicit information related to complaints made about me by Tony and Cherie Blair to Belgravia Police  in March 1997. I had written to them seeking their help and,  when they refused, I circulated copies of my letters and  the replies I received to the mainstream media at the beginning of the 1997 election campaign. The Blairs did not go to the police when I sent the letters, only after I circulated them to the media.  The  complaints  had so little substance  that they were dismissed by the CPS with the ruling “NO CRIME” within a few hours of them  being submitted to them for guidance by Belgravia Police.

The odds must be heavily on the  Mirror having paid for the information because it is difficult to see what other motive  a police officer would have for  releasing such information.  However, by accepting information illicitly from the police, whether or not money was paid, offences relating to Misconduct in a Public Office and  the Official  Secrets Act were committed, both by the police officer and Mirror employees including Morgan.  If money was paid by the Mirror to the police officer,  further offences arise under  the laws relating to corruption.

The evidence of Morgan’s  perjury before the Leveson Inquiry is contained in the copy of my submission to the Inquiry informing them of the perjury dated 22 December 2011 which I enclose.

I ask you to investigate both Morgan’s receipt of illicit information from the police and his perjury before Leveson.

Jeff Edwards

In addition to Morgan’s perjury, the Mirror reporter who wrote the story about me, their then  Chief Crime Reporter Jeff Edwards, also committed perjury before the Leveson Inquiry by denying ever receiving information illicitly from the police.   The details are included in the copy of my submission to the Inquiry informing them of the perjury dated  25 March 2012 which  I enclose .

As Edwards was the reporter who wrote the story to which Morgan referred in his letter to the PCC, he must have been the person to whom the police officer referred to in Morgan’s letter gave the illicit information. .

I ask you to investigate Edwards for his receipt of illicit information from the police and his perjury before Leveson.

The original police failure to meaningfully  investigate my complaint

In 1997 I made a complaint about the illicit supply of information about me by the police to the Mirror. The case was handled by Detective Superintendent Jeff Curtis of Scotland Yard .  No meaningful investigation was undertaken because, as Det Supt Curtis eventually admitted to me during a phone call, the  “investigation” was ended without anyone at the Mirror being  interviewed; not Morgan, Edwards or anyone else.   I enclose my final letter to  Det Supt Curtis dated 2 December 1999, Det Supt A Bamber’s reply to that letter 13 December 1999 and the PCA’s letter dated November 1999  refusing  to investigate further. This again is self-evidently absurd because of the  failure to question Morgan and Edwards.

I ask you to investigate Ian Curtis for perverting the course of justice by failing to investigate conclusive and incontrovertible evidence of  a serious crime.

Yours sincerely,

Robert Henderson

The BBC, Newsnight and Lord McAlpine: where were the libel lawyers?

Robert Henderson

The greatest ostensible oddity about the Newsnight programme involving ( at that stage  an  unnamed)  Lord  McAlpine  is the position of  the  BBC’s in-house libel lawyers.  The Corporation  has been remarkably coy about what legal advice they were given about the programme before it was broadcast. These questions urgently need to be answered by the BBC:

1. If the libel lawyers were not shown the programme in whole or part, who made the decision to withhold  the programme any part of the programme from them?

2. If the libel lawyers said  no to the broadcast as it was shown, who overrode their advice?

3. If the lawyers  did not say no, how did they  come to such a judgement?

To the best of my knowledge, not one BBC programme has asked or simply siad what the BBC libel lawyer (s) advised. That in itself looks suspicious.  For its own protection, the BBC needs to start publicly asking  and answering these questions.

Any libel lawyer will know that not naming someone cuts no ice where a broadcast or written communication provides  a reasonable chance of an individual  being identified from the details given in the broadcast or written communication.  Worse,  even identifying a small group to whom libellous  details might apply could provide solid grounds for a libel action. For example, suppose a  broadcaster or newspaper published a story alleging that two players in a football side had been bribed to throw a game without naming the two players.  Whether the story was true or not, the players who were not guilty of such behaviour could reasonably claim they had been defamed because the public might suspect any player in the side.

Had the programme simply said that a high-profile political figure was allegedly guilty they would probably  have been safe. By saying it was both a Tory politician and one prominent in the “Thatcher era” they made the identification much too easy.  (Whether that was a politically motivated decision is debatable, but it is difficult to imagine the BBC running a story which contained an equivalent accusation of, say, a high-profile Labour politician of the Blair era.” )

There is also a problem with the  idea that the furore  could have been avoided if  John Messham,   (the person,  who spoke on Newsnight of  being sexually assaulted by a high profile Tory politician),  had been shown a photo of McAlpine  by the Newsnight people before the programme was put together.  Mr  Messham has said since the programme was broadcast that,  having seen a photograph of McAlpine,  he was sure this was not the man who had assaulted him. (http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/lord-mcalpine-did-not-abuse-me-1427866). There is no reason to disbelieve this retraction because Lord McAlpine has mounted a most vigorous and convincing defence  against the accusations. Nonetheless  there are difficulties with the idea that such a positive identification could be made from a photograph.

The alleged assaults took place in the mid 1970s. I would defy anyone to be able to swear one way or another to the identity of a man from a photo 35-40 years on.  Moreover,  exactly what photo could Newsnight have shown him? A recent photo of McAlpine?  One taken from the 1970s? if the former,  identification could surely not be certain: if the latter, would 1970s photos of McAlpine be readily available,   and even if they were,  would they be good likenesses of the man?

This can of worms is far from being  fully opened.

Jimmy Savile, George Entwistle and the balance of probabilities

Robert Henderson

George Entwistle gave as abject a performance by an experienced media bigwig  as you will ever see before the Culture, Media and Sport select committee (( http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2221520/Jimmy-Savile-Panorama-documentary-reveals-BBC-suspected-DJ-sexual-abuse-40-years-ago.html ) . He adopted the BBC equivalent of giving nothing but his name, rank and number. (How on Earth did this timid personality with all the authority of a jellyfish become Director-General?)

Entwistle is, according to his account, a man who is immensely ignorant of what goes on in the BBC from choice, the choice being driven by a desire not to impinge on the autonomy of individual editors.  Not only did he swear blind that he knew nothing specific about the Newsnight programme before ITV ran a programme on the same subject (http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/4563205/jimmy-savile-paedophile-itv-documentary.html), but he was left floundering by simple questions such as How many ongoing complaints of sexual harassment within the corporation is  the BBC dealing with at the moment?  Throughout the grisly two hours or so of the hearing, Entwistle recounted how he was  setting up inquiries, tracking complaints, amassing data and doing a hundred and one other things. What he was not doing was answering questions for which he should have been prepared.

The committee’s questioning was as usual a curate’s egg, mostly rotten egg because most MPs are  quite incapable of building a line of questioning  on any particular subject, let alone working out a complete plan of questioning for a complex matter.  Not one of the committee had the wit to lure Entwistle onto the truth quicksands by simply asking  “When did you first become aware of rumours about Savile’s sexual interference with minors?”  That would have put Entwistle in a very difficult position.

If Entwistle had lied to the CMS and said he had never heard the rumours,  he would have been leaving himself wide open to exposure as a liar. Even  if he was telling the truth or he lied and was never exposed, his denial would have seemed improbable simply because of the number of people  who have worked  for the BBC admitting they had heard rumours but never came across any hard evidence .

But if Entwistle  had admitted to knowing of rumours  he would be in even deeper and immediate trouble. He joined the BBC in 1989 and has worked for the BBC ever since. Savile’s prime  show, Jim’ll Fix It, ran until 1994 and he returned intermittently to the BBC  until near his death in 2011.   There was ample opportunity for Entwistle to have at least heard BBC gossip about  Savile’s  sexual predilections.

The  BBC’s Director of News,  Helen Boaden, warned him  in the Autumn of 2011 him that  Newsnight were working on a  programme about Savile  which might be incompatible with the Savile memorial programmes the BBC was due to air (and did air) in December 2011.

Entwistle claimed before the CMS that he did not ask Boaden  what the Newsnight programme was about because he did not want to be accused of interfering with editorial authority (this despite the fact that he is officially the BBC’s editor-in-chief) .   If he admitted to hearing rumours about Savile before Boaden warned him,  his claim of respecting editorial authority and autonomy – weak as it is to begin with –  would collapse because he would have had every reason to suspect that the Newsnight programme was concerned with Savile’  illicit sexual behaviour.  In those circumstances Entwistle would have had to investigate what the Newsnight story was about because , apart from any moral considerations,   he risked having a substantial part of his 2011 Christmas programme going west.

It might not be possible to prove beyond reasonable doubt (the criminal law evidential test) that the Entwistle is lying or at least not telling the whole truth, or that pressure from above was applied to get the Newsnight editor  Peter Rippon  to drop the Savile programme, but on the balance of probabilities (the civil law evidential test) it would seem probable that either or both things are true. It is human nature to be curious and both the simple circumstances of the dropping of a story when a great deal of work had been done and the programme was near broadcasting and  the warnings given by  Meirion Jones, the Newsnight producer,  to Rippon that pulling the programme would cause  that ‘substantial damage to the BBC’s reputation’ ( http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2221520/Jimmy-Savile-Panorama-documentary-reveals-BBC-suspected-DJ-sexual-abuse-40-years-ago.html).

Peter Rippon’s  factually incorrect blog (http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/theeditors/2012/10/newsnight_and_jimmy_savile.html) has been amended by, according to Entwistle before the CMS,  a statement created by the Corporation’s lawyers and himself. The corrections are:

1.The blog says that Newsnight had no evidence that anyone from the Duncroft home could or should have known about the allegations. In fact some allegations were made (mostly in general terms) that some of the Duncroft staff knew or may have known about the abuse.

2. The blog says that Newsnight had no evidence against the BBC. No allegation was made to the programme that BBC staff were aware of Mr Savile’s alleged activities, but there were some allegations of abusive conduct on BBC premises.

3. The blog says that all the women spoken to by the programme had contacted the police independently already and that Newsnight had no new evidence against any other person that would have helped the police. It appears that in some cases women had not spoken to the police and that the police were not aware of all the allegations.  (RH : these women  included the prime witness] (http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/theeditors/2012/10/jimmy_savile_and_newsnight_a_c.html).

Why did Rippon make such errors? Most probably panic. The alternative would be hubris driven by the idea that the BBC could ride the storm simply because they are the BBC.

The BBC have issued a further statement:

BBC statement issued to Panorama – 22/10/12

Date: 23.10.2012Last updated: 23.10.2012 at 08.04

Category: Corporate

The following statement has been issued by the BBC to Panorama (broadcast 22/10/12).

The BBC is putting first and foremost the victims of Jimmy Savile’s abuse. That is why we have announced a Judge-led review with sweeping terms of reference to uncover exactly how this could have happened.

BBC management will, furthermore, make themselves available to a second independent review that will seek to establish what exactly happened at Newsnight. This will be led by Nick Pollard, former head of Sky News.

The Pollard Review is the right forum to resolve detailed issues relating to BBC programming and the Newsnight investigation. Panorama has every right to pursue its programme but nothing should be done to prejudge the Pollard Inquiry.

However, on the basis of information provided by the Newsnight editor and production team, BBC management has reached the view that there are inaccuracies in the Peter Rippon blog of 2nd October and has issued a corrective statement.

We should also make it clear we now accept that the Newsnight investigation did not start out as an investigation into the Surrey police’s handling of the case against Mr Savile.

BBC Press Office


There may be much more to this story than Savile. Suppose, for example, that Savile acted as a pimp for others in the BBC with a taste for minors, especially  those who were senior when he was most active or are senior now?  Or perhaps the Savile was not the pimp but investigation of his activities will reveal the pimp and his (or her) customers.  Will it ever be properly investigated? Don’t hold your breath, especially if really powerful people are drawn into the net.

How has this story been suppressed for so long? One of the classic traits of the psychopath is to constantly promote himself or herself  as a superior moral and generally wonderful being whilst behaving abominably.  The BBC has done that collectively for as long as I can remember, the current moral superior sham being a  supposed religious adherence to political correctness when BBC staff are anything  but PC in their private behaviour, especially that of senior male employees towards young female staff.  I remember going to a recording of Any Questions in the 1980s. The grovelling eagerness of the  numerous young attractive BBC female aides around the producer and presenter was astonishing. The girls just about restrained themselves from performing fellatio on the said functionaries but it was a close call.

How the BBC censors evidence of press misbehaviour

Robert Henderson

The Leveson Inquiry resumed sitting on 27 February.  Its  focus will be on the relationship between the police and the press.  Consequently, this subject was chosen for BBC Radio 5 Breakfast  Programme’s 9.00 am phone-in on that date.

Before  the subject was announced Piers Morgan appeared on the programme and repeated his denial of ever paying police for information or knowing of any journalist working for him doing so.  Because of this denial  I sent to the Breakfast email address and the presenter Nicky Campbell’s email address a facsimile copy of Morgan’s letter to the  PCC in which he admits receiving information from the police in circumstances which can only have been illegal. A copy of the letter is at the bottom of this post.

As soon as the subject was announced (8.49 am) I immediately rang R5  and offered myself as a caller.  Normally if you call at that time you will get on air. I explained that I had direct evidence of police collusion with the press and asked the researcher to put on his notes to the program producer the fact that I has sent a facsimile of Morgan’s letter by email which he agreed to do.  I added that I had tried to get the Leveson Inquiry to investigate  Morgan’s admission of dealing with the police illicitly but  they had refused.

Despite offering such solid evidence I never got on the programme.  Nor did many other members of the general public – in 50 minutes of broadcasting only seven people not connected with the media were put on air, most of them for a brief period.   Instead, the vast majority of the time  was taken by Nicky Campbell interviewing  the Labour MP  Chris Bryant and  journalists including Roy Greenslade, ex-Mirror editor,  and Jeff Edwards,  the recently retired chief crime reporter for the Mirror .   Edwards painted himself as whiter than white when it came to illegal dealings with the police. This was more than a little odd because Jeff Edwards was the reporter who received the information from the police about me to which Morgan refers in his letter to the PCC.

There was one interesting call from the brother of   Tom  Cressman   who  was murdered by Jane Andrews, the one-time  wardrobe mistress to the  Duchess of York.  Richard Cressman   complained that he had submitted complaints to the Leveson Inquiry but had not been called to give evidence.

Robert Henderson 27 2 2012


Piers Morgan’s letter to the PCC admitting the illegal receipt of information from the police


By fax (0171-353 8355) & by post

16 October 1997

Your ref: 970738

Christopher Hayes Esq

Press Complaints Commission

I Salisbury Square




Dear Mr Hayes

Mr Robert Henderson

I refer to Mr Henderson’s complaint as outlined in his letter of 23 September.

As you are aware, we have been in contact with Mr Henderson for some time due to his propensity to bombard individuals and this office with correspondence. There are certain irrefutable facts that escape emphasis in Mr Henderson’s correspondence.

Far from ignoring any of his correspondence we have written to him on the 20 May, 22 July and 6 August We have consistently made it clear  that we have no intention of entering into any further correspondence with him.

Be that as it may I will address his concerns:-

In essence, the basic “sting” of the article, of which he complains, was that he had been sending numerous insulting letters, some with racist undertones, to Mr and Mrs Blair which had been passed to the  Crown Prosecution Service for consideration.

Mr Henderson himself admits that he sent Mr and Mrs Blair at least thirteen letters. I have no way of directly knowing of the content of those letters because I have not had sight of them. However, clearly  they sufficiently concerned Mr Blair’s office to be passed to the Crown Prosecution Service and I think the Commission is perfectly entitled to draw an adverse inference on the contents of those letters as a result of that referral.

I cannot accept Mr Henderson’s explanation for writing to Cherie Blair.

To do so was clearly designed to intimidate.

In Mr Henderson’s draft article “Moral Simpletons Target Innocent Man”  the bile that he shows on the second page of that article clearly  illustrates his capacity to insult in his letters to Mr and Mrs Blair (to the extent that they be referred to the Crown Prosecution Service). I would also refer the Commission to Mr Henderson’s gratuitous reference to a “Blaireich”.

He also admits to expressing his disgust (we can only guess in what terms) of the decision of Mr and Mrs Blair not to send their son to a school whereby a white schoolboy was, apparently, murdered by five other boys (and that that murder was racially motivated).

The police source of our article (whose identity we have a moral obligation to protect) gave us tile detail of the letters that we then published. Nothing that Mr Henderson writes has convinced me that tile article was anything other than accurate.

Perhaps one can get a flavour of his correspondence with Mr and Mrs Blair by examining the final sentence of his draft article in which he states “It was a cargo of ancient male gonads”.

The Commission may be aware (I am attempting to get hold of the article) that the article of Mr Henderson’s that appeared in Wisden’s Cricket Monthly in 1995 gave rise to an extraordinary amount of controversy and resulted in Wisden paying substantial libel damages to the Cricketer, Devon Malcolm, whom the Commission will be aware is a coloured fast bowler for England. As I understand the matter, and Mr Henderson will correct me if I am wrong, the article implied that coloured players will not try as hard when playing for England as white players.

I have discussed the legal position with the newspaper’s solicitor, Martin Cruddace , and he has assured me that the law has recently developed whereby words (be they written or spoken) can constitute assault if the pattern of those words is such as to make the recipient of them either anxious or ill. It has developed as a reaction to the former impotence of the law on stalking.

The law has therefore developed since the publication of the dictionary reference on which Mr Henderson relies.

I cannot accept that the taking of the photographs of Mr Henderson, given the clear public interest concerning the subject matter of The Mirror article, could possibly constitute harassment under the Code.

I am most concerned not to waste any further time in dealing with Mr Henderson’s complaint but, naturally, if the Commission wishes me to address any further matters then I will endeavour to do so.

However, I hope that the above is sufficient to convince the Commission that the basic “sting” of the article is accurate and that Mr Henderson’s complaint ought to be dismissed.

Yours sincerely


Piers Morgan

Why public service broadcasting (PSB) matters

We all know what comes from rampant and unrestrained commercial activity: a worship of Mammon to the exclusion of everything except the feeding of company directors’ and financiers egos and greed. In broadcasting, unrestrained commerce equals a low grade, populist cultural diet heavily polluted with advertising. Many supporters of PSB think that is a case of ’nuff said’.  Were it only that easy.

The fact that commercial broadcasters left to their own devices do tend to go for the lowest common cultural denominator is not a knockdown justification for PSB but an expression of opinion, a projection of taste. That is so even in the areas where PSB would seem to be most obviously valuable such as the provision of news and current affairs programming. Sadly, there is no necessary reason why such programmes made by PSB providers should be more or less biased than those provided by commercial broadcasters. Indeed, it could be plausibly argued that PSB political coverage is more naturally susceptible to bias than that of commercial broadcasters because PSB is ultimately funded from a single source, government,  through direct funding (the World Service), hypothecated charges (the BBC) or the profits of quasi-commercial undertakings funded by  state granted revenues,  whereas private broadcasters at least have a diversity of vested interests to satisfy.

It might be thought a weakness to admit that support for PSB is a value judgement, but it is never a weakness to start from a point of intellectual honesty. Far worse to pretend that PSB is an objective good whose value  is beyond discussion or the need for justification, because then the argument switches to defending the ultimately indefensible rather than the real issue, namely, how does the person who supports PSB come to their value judgement?

If they wish to be taken seriously, the supporters of PSB must make the intellectually honest case for PSB. To do that they must answer two questions: (1) what is wrong with the public exercising its own choice by voting with its subscriptions to unregulated private broadcasters? And  (2) in what sense is the world better off  with PSB than without it? But before I turn to those questions some ground needs to be prepared.

What do we mean by PSB?

We all know what PSB is don’t we? Actually,  no.  It is one of those phrases that seems comfortingly solid but which often causes people to stumble embarrassingly when pressed for a description of what it means. A reasonable general definition would be any broadcasting that is in some way formally influenced by the state. That covers the obvious, publicly-funded broadcasters such as the BBC, to the less obvious, for example news and current affairs programmes bound by a legal obligation to provide “balance” and licence requirements which demand a certain volume of programming deemed to be in the general public interest, such as drama.

Free-to-air broadcasting funded in part or whole by private donations (such as exists in the USA in the form of the Pacifica Foundation) is often described as PSB. In as far as such broadcasting is directly influenced by the state in the manner described above it is PSB. But imagine a broadcaster entirely funded by donations and unregulated. Such a broadcaster might produce programming which is similar to that which a full-blown PSB state funded broadcaster such as the BBC produces, that is, programmes which no commercial broadcaster would produce either at all or in sufficient quantity. This might seem at first glance to be evidence of PSB. However, those who make donations are in reality paying subscriptions, for by making donations they are determining the type of programming the broadcaster will produce. In principle, that is no different from anyone who subscribes to any commercial channel. It is not PSB but merely a coincidence of programming.

What counts as PSB programming?

State regulation and funding equals PSB, right? Wrong. A state funded broadcaster could go for the lowest common denominator. But that would not be PSB. It would merely be the state providing the same as the market can provide.

There is nothing in principle to stop a fully state-funded broadcaster pumping out exactly the same sort of programming diet as the most grossly commercial station. Indeed, a cynical government might well see it as a modern version of ‘bread and circuses’ to keep the masses distracted from misgovernment or as a mass audience platform for government propaganda, with the propaganda slipped into the programming.

PSB has to be more than simply state provision and regulation. It must do something that neither unfettered commercial companies nor self-serving governments will do. The question is what? The general answer is to produce socially necessary and valuable programmes which will not otherwise be produced at all or in sufficient quantity. Like every other form of public provision, PSB exists and has existed to provide what the market will not provide.

What is “necessary and valuable”? The need for wide-ranging and honest news and current affairs can be taken as read in a democracy. Clearly no commercial broadcaster will provide unbiased news unless it is closely constrained by law to do so (think Fox TV in the USA) . At the very least the commercial broadcaster will find ways to avoid stories that damage its advertisers or shareholders. Consequently, there is an objective case to be made for PSB in the field of news and current affairs, provided safeguards are put in place to prevent either government interference or the capture of the broadcaster by those with a particular ideology. (Sadly, while the censorship of the state is constantly under scrutiny by the media, censorship by those who control the media is routinely ignored. The latter is perhaps even more insidious than state censorship, because it is not acknowledged, and responsibility for it is diffused.)

“Highbrow” programming such as serious drama, music, history and science has been (with news and current affairs) the staple legal requirements that governments have imposed upon commercial broadcasters. They have been taken as self-evident goods, but are they? Why should “highbrow” be given a privileged position? An analogy with formal education can be made. Why do we insist on education for all? The utilitarian answer is to equip everyone for employment in an advanced society. But that is not the full story. Few would argue that some education is necessary for all, but even the education we provide up to the age of 16 goes far beyond what is required for most jobs, for which a firm grasp of the three Rs will suffice. Why do we teach every child history, Eng Lit and world geography? What need do most have for a grasp of the natural sciences? We also fund non-academic activities such as sport, art and music. Beyond the age of sixteen we continue to educate to degree level very large numbers of people in subjects which they will never directly use in their working lives. (Whether the education has its desired effect in many cases is a separate issue. The intent is what matters here.)

Part of the reason we do this is to provide a range of abilities and experience to fill the multifarious occupations available in a modern industrial state. But we also provide the education we do because it is believed that it both civilises the individual and better equips the person to understand at least enough of matters in general to make basic participation in the democratic process meaningful. (These ends may not be realised or even be sincerely meant by those who expound them. That does not matter. They are what is claimed for education. Few would openly gainsay them.) By extension it can be claimed that PSB has an equivalent role to that of formal education.

Variety and quality is not enough

The problem with the argument deriving from the need for variety and quality is that a very rich diet of every kind of broadcast fare is now available from commercial or public access sources because satellite, cable and the Web offer material on virtually anything – and that which they do not provide can be found on discrete static media such as DVD. Does this expansion of broadcast opportunities and data access make PSB redundant or will it do so in the foreseeable future? The free marketeer would say yes, but there is more to PSB than simply the provision of a wide range of material. To begin with PSB can give a national focus. The need for a broadcaster such as the BBC to provide national programming is especially important at a time when commercial broadcasting is being split ever more and the constraints on what is shown are being loosened. The question of national focus is especially pressing in the field of news and current affairs.

We already have Sky effectively outside the control of the British people. With the recent relaxation of the ownership and monopoly rules for British terrestrial free-to-air broadcasters, it is quite conceivable that within a few years most, or even all, the major commercial broadcasters will be owned wholly or in large part by foreigners, especially Americans. Past experience both here and abroad suggests that with that will come a relaxation of the requirements for commercial broadcasters to provide either a certain percentage of PSB programming, or programming which is produced in Britain.

There is also the problem of information overload. A vast range of material may be available but its very size and variety is of itself a problem. Human beings generally say ‘yes’ when they are asked whether they want more choice, but this is a lie. What human beings are emotionally and intellectually equipped for is some choice but not too much. Give someone the choice of six books on a subject and they can probably handle it. Give them one hundred choices and not only will they not be able to make a meaningful choice, the sheer volume of choices may well cripple their ability to choose at all. I think most people will recognise this as a fact, for the simple reason they will feel that way themselves when confronted with many choices. For those who do not accept it, I suggest they reflect on the fact that the large majority of British people still choose most of their viewing from a small number of broadcasters, even when they have the opportunity to choose from a much wider catalogue of broadcast material.

In the case of the BBC it performs another useful role, namely, it is broadcasting without the profit motive constantly poking its greedy little nose into the public’s face through the pathological use of adverts. The BBC offers a haven of comparative calm, a reminder that there is more to life than economic relationships. An absence of adverts may have other benefits. Their constant intrusion makes the presentation of extended argument or evidence difficult, and in the case of drama disrupts the flow of the action: to a substantial degree adverts shape  programmes. There is also the question of production values. The BBC’s, especially in radio, are generally substantially higher than the commercial alternatives (think Talk Sport). This is primarily a consequence of not being driven by commercial pressures.

Finally, although there is great variety available nowadays elsewhere, it is dubious whether any commercial broadcaster, even one forced to produce some PSB programming by the state, would be required to (or even be able to) undertake some of the really big enterprises, especially drama and documentaries, which the BBC periodically tackles. It is also certain that no single commercial programmer would be able to even approach the sheer volume and range of programmes provided by the BBC.

Why should everyone pay?

For the same reason they all pay for state education, defence and the NHS. It is part of the normal social fabric of an efficient and advanced state. There are many instances of public provision where a majority pay but a minority of necessity benefit: social housing, high-cost medical treatment such as organ transplants and university education. (Even with the vastly expanded university population, now around 43 per cent of those under 28, a majority of the population will never attend.)

PSB is on firmer moral ground than any of the examples given above because everyone can freely access PSB if they so choose.

Is it reasonable for the state to interfere with the market?

The state interferes with the market all the time. It does so because all experience shows that private provision is never enough to meet a general need – whether PSB meets a general need is arguable, but if it is accepted that it does, then state action is necessary to provide it. In fact, the term “free market” is a complete misnomer. It is really a state-controlled market. The natural end of a truly free market is monopoly or at least greatly reduced competition resulting in oligopoly. All so-called free market societies recognise this by passing anti-monopoly laws. Hence, the “free market” is in fact a market controlled by the state in the most fundamental   way  to prevent its natural workings which is a movement to monopoly or at least greatly reduced competition.  It is one of the great propaganda triumphs of history that “free markets” have been successfully sold as being what happens naturally. Free marketeers invariably justify themselves by chanting “the market gives the people what they want”. The actuality is rather different because the viewer merely chooses between what is offered. That is a different matter from choosing what they would ideally want. As an instrument for providing what people want, let alone need, the market is wholly inadequate. A Tesco arrives in an area, kills off the opposition and everyone has to go to Tesco. That does not mean they prefer Tesco.

Can PSB survive in Britain?

At present the omens are not auspicious, with the relaxation of the commercial broadcasting ownership rules and the ever-expanding media choices open to the public. It may well be that within the foreseeable future the licence fee the BBC currently enjoys becomes practically impossible as the readily identifiable stand-alone TV ceases to be.

But there are also good reasons why it may survive. PSB is ultimately a political matter. It is very convenient for politicians to have a national broadcaster with a mass audience to carry their message. Such a broadcaster will become ever more useful as the commercial market continues to fragment and expand. Politicians may also see in PSB a means of cementing national unity in an increasingly uncertain and fluid world. But if it is to survive as PSB in the true sense it must not be dominated by a class or ideology. Rather, it must carry the population as a whole with it. Consequently, it should not be unremittingly highbrow, but all programmes should aim to be  of high quality. What should the supporters of PSB do? Present the honest subjective case for PSB and be prepared to argue it against all comers.

How the BBC surreptitiously censors callers to phone-ins

Midway through 2007  I discovered a strange thing. Try as I might I could not get through to BBC  R5 phone-in programmes. The phone would ring and ring but it was never answered. This was very odd because I had never experienced such a problem before. Moreover, it occurred directly after I had managed to get on the Victoria Derbyshire morning programme to raise the issue of the failure of the  British mainstream media in general and the BBC in particular to report the attempted suicide of  Tony  Blair’s  daughter Kathryn in the spring of  2004. (see https://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2010/10/02/the-blair-daughters-attempted-suicide-and-the-publics-right-to-know/).

I had the line checked and there was nothing wrong with  it or  the BBC line.  From that and the proximity of my mentioning Kathryn Blair’s attempted suicide to the problem arising,  I concluded that the most likely cause was the deliberate blocking of phone calls by the BBC. This turned out to be correct after I put in a Freedom of Information request asking whether the BBC was blocking calls and received a reply in which they admitted that telephone systems were used by the BBC which allowed them to mark any telephone number to identify it as a number not to be answered (see document 1 below) .

The blocking works like this.  The BBC number continues to ring as normal but the phone is never answered because  the BBC’s system flags it up as a call not to be answered. As  the caller is  never told that their phone number had been blacklisted,  they have no way of knowing for sure that the BBC was censoring them. Indeed, the most likely response from banned callers would be to simply think that when they rang calls were especially heavy.

Because the BBC does not advise people that  they had been blacklisted they do not have to justify the reasons for their ban.  But even if a person discovers,   as I did, that calls are routinely blocked , they still have no chance of getting a reason for their banning because, astonishingly,  the BBC claim that they do not keep records of the reason for a person being banned.

The numbers censored are substantial. The BBC refused to give me the details of how many people are banned on the grounds of cost and I was unable to get this refusal overturned by the Information Commissioner.  However, the BBC did give me the figure of 239  for Radio 5 (see document 1).  If this is repeated throughout the full range of BBC  radio and TV programmes the number banned would be in the thousands.

The BBC Trust refused to act (see document 5 ) despite the fact that Ofcom said that the matter was within their competence (see document 9).

Ofcom   refused to act, claiming that it did not come within their remit even though they had intervened in equivalent circumstances  when they investigated claims of fraud in phone-ins to reality shows (see document 10)

I informed The BBC complaints programme Feedback  of the BBC’s behavior  (see document 14 ) but they neither contacted me nor used the information on their programme.

The final port of  call was the Information Commissioner (IC) .  My complaint was submitted on 8 January 2008 and a Decision Notice  not made until 3 November 2009, a delay which even if the  IC had found in my favour would have largely nullified its effect.  It is noteworthy that the IC tried to persuade me against requesting the issue of a Decision Notice (see document 16) which an unkind soul might interpret as a wish by the IC not to have to rule on a politically sensitive issue.

On the question of  advising people that they had been banned, releasing information relating to who made the decisions to ban  and the grounds for the ban, the IC found against me on a most  peculiar ground. Consider these two paragraphs from the Decision Notice:

“17. For completeness, the Commissioner considers that where information is held for non-journalistic/artistic/literary purposes and is only held to a trivial or insignificant extent for the purposes listed in Schedule 1, then the BBC  will be obliged to comply with its obligations under Parts I to V of the  Act.”.

“26. The Commissioner’s decision is that as the request is for information held for the purposes of journalism, art or literature the BBC was not obliged to comply with Part I to V of the Act in this case.”

The idea that surreptitiously censoring callers to phone-ins is legitimate  falls under the heading of data “held for the purposes of journalism, art or literature” is an abuse of the English language.   Para 17 surely applies. The IC’s  decision to decide that the banning of callers without telling them they have been banned constitutes significant editorial control, input etc is simply perverse. (I did not take the matter further because the only appeal is to the Information Tribunal which carries the risk of costs being awarded against appellants.)

What this case has proved is that the BBC surreptitiously censor callers to phone-ins.  They do this by using a phone system which allows them to flag up numbers which they then refuse to answer. The caller is unaware of what is happening. They make the connection and the phone rings but is never answered. The Information Commissioner’s decision means the BBC can censor callers without the subject of censorship knowing and without having to explain their reasons. Such decisions make it  possible to refuse disclosure of virtually anything which can be remotely connected with the BBC’s activities, however nefarious.

In my own case, I have never engaged in abuse of  BBC staff off air or anyone on air. The failure to answer my calls ceased after my referral to the IC but resumed after the IC issued the Decision Notice. It is reasonable to conclude (1) that the original  flagging of my number occurred because of my breaking of the mainstream media’s omerta on Kathryn Blair’s attempted suicide and (2) that as they raised the flag during the course of my complaint to the IC they knew that they could not defend neither the general system of excluding  people or my case in particular.

The excluding of me was clearly a political act to prevent an important fact about Tony Blair being made public and consequently the failure of the BBC and the rest of the British mainstream media to act, as they always claim to be acting, as fearless conduits of political information to the British public.


Correspondence  with:

The BBC – Documents 1- 4

The BBC Trust – Documents  5-7

OFCOM  – Documents  8-14

Feedback – Document 15

The Information Commissioner – Documents 16-19


Document 1

Information Policy and Compliance

British Broadcasting Corporation

MC3  Media Centre,

Media Village

201  Wood Lane

London W 2 YTQ

Tel 020 8008 2883

Fax  020 8008 2398

email foi@bbc.co.uk

Mr Robert Henderson


19 October 2007

Dear Mr Henderson

Freedom of information request — RF12007000807

Thank you for your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (“the Act”) dated 24 September 2007. You requested the following information:

“(1) whether the BBC has a system capable of doing what I suspect has been done to block callers.

(2) if the system exists how often has it been used in the past five years?

(3) If it exists who authorised it?’

The BBC has a number of telephone systems in place which have different functions available depending on the particular BBC department’s operational need. Authorisation of the particular system would be approved by the appropriate senior manager based on the department’s assessed need.For example, Radio 5’s telephone system has a function which allows them to place a warning or banned flag on a particular number. This will only occur if the phone operator gets abuse or a nuisance call from a person using the specific telephone number. In future, if that number calls in a symbol will appear on the screen to alert the operator to the warning or banned flag and the operator will then choose to not answer the phone call.

The BBC is unable to provide you with figures for how often the BBC’s telephone systems have been used to ban callers, or who authorised each telephone system. As noted above, each department within the BBC will have its own telephone system set up with different functions. We estimate that to audit the telephone systems of each department would take more than two and a half days to complete. Under section 12 of the Act, we are allowed to refuse to handle the request if it would exceed the appropriate limit. The appropriate limit has been set by the Regulations (SI 2004/3244) as being £450 (equivalent to two and a half days work, at an hourly rate of £25). However, we are able to confirm that there are currently 239 people on Radio 5’s banned or warning list.

Please note that unless you have previously made nuisance calls to Radio 5 or been abusive, your telephone number would not have a warning or banned flag lodged with it. If your telephone call is not answered it is more likely to be due to the call centre operators being too busy. Information relating to your specific calls to Radio 5 will be dealt with by the BBC in your Subject Access Request.

Appeal Rights

If you are not satisfied with this response you have the right to an internal review by a BBC senior manager or legal adviser. Please contact us at the address above, explaining what you would like us to review and including your reference number. If you are not satisfied with the internal review, you can appeal to the Information Commissioner. The contact

details are:

Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF, telephone 01625 545 700 or see http://wwwicoqov.uk

Yours sincerely

Andrea Chard

Advisor, Information Policy & Compliance


Document 2

Andrea Chard

Advisor Information Policy and Compliance

British Broadcasting Corporation MC3 DI

Media Centre,

Media Village 201  Wood Lane

London W 2 YTQ

Tel 020 8008 2883

Fax  020 8008 2398

email foi@bbc.co.uk

22 10 2007

Dear Ms Chard,

FOIA request RF12007000807

I refer to your letter of 19th October relating to my FOI request for information about the BBC’s telephone system.   This is a formal appeal against the refusal to provide details of blocked calls throughout the BBC.

My reasons for appealing are these: I fail to see how obtaining the details of blocked calls from all departments could take two and a half days. The simple numerical information, i.e. the number of callers blocked by a department, will be automatically recorded on whatever system is used and can be simply obtained by using a search function at worst.

(Systems like this will in all probability produce a list of flagged numbers and a count as part of their configuration). All that is required is an email sent to all departments asking them to send the numerical count to a single point for collation, the collation being no more than a simple list of the numbers blocked by each department.  In summary, my appeal is that the process would take much less than two and a half days and hence comes within the FOIA.

I wish to extend my FOIA request to the detailed reasons for why people are banned. You already have the detailed information for Radio 5. Please supply me with the reasons for why the 239 have been banned. Note that I am not requesting information which identifies an individual, merely the reasons for their banning.

Yours sincerely,

Robert Henderson


Document 3

Freedom of Information Internal Review Decision

Internal Reviewer

Simon Pickard, Information and Compliance Manager


IR2007000075 (RFI2007000807)


8 November 2007

Original Request:

1. ‘Whether the BBC has a system capable of doing what I suspect has

been done to block callers’

2. ‘If the system exists how often has it been used in the past five years?’

3. ‘If it exists who authorised it?’

Issues on review:

The requester wishes for an internal review on the BBC decision to refuse the information on the grounds that it would take more than 2.5 days to answer question 2 of the original request.


The BBC’s response to the requester dated 19 October clearly addresses questions 1 and 3 of the original request and is therefore not part of this internal review. This internal review was conducted to ascertain whether the process of gathering the information to answer question 2 of the original request would take more than 2.5 days.

Under section 12 of the Freedom of Information Act, the BBC are allowed  to refuse to handle the request if it would exceed the appropriate limit. The appropriate limit has been set by the Regulations (SI  004/3244) as being £450 (equivalent to two and a half  days work, at an hourly rate of £25).

The original request explained that the BBC used a number of different telephone systems with various ways in which either incoming telephone numbers could be banned or have a warning mechanism associated with them. The letter went on to explain that to audit the telephone systems of each department would take more than 2.5 days to  complete. It is my view that it would have been beneficial to have further explained what this  meant on terms of scale at the BBC; as of September 2007 there were 21,449 members of  staff (not including the BBC’s subsidiaries) and over 320 different departments. Therefore, in  order to respond to the original request this would have entailed contacting each department to ascertain what telephone system they are using and whether they have records dating  back over the past 5 years as to how many times a caller may have been blocked. However, it is worth noting that the requester has been in correspondence with various parts of the BBC regarding an alleged blocking of their telephone number by  Radio 5 in regards to their 9:00 phone-in. Therefore, although the answer to question 2 in the original request was clearly a task that would exceed the fees limits set out in the Act, the  person handling the request did address the specific issues with the Radio 5 telephone  system in order to assist the requester as much as possible.

The response explained that the telephone system in operation at Radio 5 does allow them to place a warning or banned flag on a particular number, and that this only occurred if the phone operator had received either abuse or a nuisance call previously  from that particular telephone number. The letter went on to explain that there were currently 239 telephone numbers on the Radio 5 warning or banned list. It is my view that, having looked at the correspondence regarding the original handling of this request it may  have been further helpful to explain that in the case of the Radio 5 telephone system that  records going back 5 years were not available due to the fact that from February 2007 a new  system was introduced and previous records were not kept. Conclusion I uphold the original findings that to undertake the request would have  exceeded the appropriate fees limit. It has also been demonstrated that the BBC has, despite the fees limit, attempted to address the issue that seems central to the requesters’  questions.

Appeal rights

If you are not satisfied with this internal review you can appeal to the Information Commissioner. The contact details are: Information Commissioner’s office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF, telephone 01625 545 700 or see http://www.ico.gov.uk/


Document 4

Mr Robert Henderson

Via email: Philip@anywhere.demon.co.uk

22 November 2007

Dear Mr Henderson

Freedom of Information request – RFI2007000898

Thank you for your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000

(“the Act”) dated 22 October, received 26 October 2007.

You requested:

“the detailed reasons for why people are banned. You already have the detailed information for Radio 5. Please supply me with the reasons for why the 239 have been banned.” The reference number for your request is RFI2007000898.

As Andrea Chard explained in her letter to you of 19 October, Radio 5 telephone operators will only place a warning or banned flag on a particular number if the call received is abusive or nuisance. Therefore, the 239 individuals would have been banned because they made an abusive or nuisance call to Radio 5. We do not hold any specific information about the nature of the abusive or nuisance telephone calls those particular individuals made to Radio 5.

Appeal Rights

If you are not satisfied with this response you have the right to an internal review by a BBC senior manager or legal adviser. Please contact us at the address above, explaining what you would like us to review and including your reference number. If you are not satisfied with the internal review, you can appeal to the Information Commissioner. The contact details are: Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF, telephone 01625 545 700 or see http://www.ico.gov.uk/

Yours sincerely

Fern Kersey

Adviser, Information Policy & Compliance

Correspondence with BBC Trust


Document 5

British Broadcasting Corporation MC3 0 Media Centre,  Media Village 201  Wood Lane  London W 2 YTQ Tel 020 8008 2883 Fax  020 8008 2398 email foi@bbc.co.uk

13  January 2008

Sir John Lyons

The BBC Trust

35 Marylebone High Street

London W1U 4AA

Dear Sir John,

Complaint against the  BBC’s surreptitious censoring of phone-in programmes

I have used the Freedom of Information Act to get the BBC to admit that they are censoring callers to phone-in programmes without telling the people who are censored that this is being done.

The censorship is achieved as follows.  The BBC decides someone shall not be allowed on air at any time because they are either making “nuisance calls” or being abusive.  In the case of Radio 5 they do this by using a telephone system which allows the person’s phone number to be marked as banned and the operator then refuses to answer the call. The caller is not told that they have been banned  and the phone is left to ring until either the caller gets tired of trying or the provider of the phone cuts off the call.  See the BBC’s letter to me of 19 10 2007.

The BBC have only given me the current figures for Radio 5 (239  people banned) because they claim that the cost of  providing it for the BBC in its entirety would exceed the £450 cost limit for FOIA request. (This is almost certainly not so for the reasons given in my letter to Andrea Chard dated 22 10 2007.)  They also claim to have no historical records of  such bans – the data will almost certainly be recorded on the systems used because deleting does not lose the data only remove it from immediate access.  However, it is clear from their letter of 19 10 2007 that the practice is  a general one and,  consequently,  the numbers of banned people involved throughout the BBC could plausibly be thousands based on the number given for  Radio 5.

I would further draw your attention to the refusal of the BBC to give names and details of those who have authorised the use of such systems. The BBC  does not define what a nuisance call is or what constitutes abuse. As they operate the system secretly and act  judge and jury  in deciding who shall be banned, the system is clearly  open to considerable abuse because they can ban anyone at their whim.

This is a matter of  considerable  public interest for it is indubitably destructive of  what the BBC is meant to be about, namely, fair, honest and impartial broadcasting.  Consequently , it is far  more serious than fixed quiz shows,  dishonestly edited shows  and fixed votes for reality programmes, serious as those are.

I ask you to

(1) stop the practice forthwith

(2) investigate when  it began and  who authorised it

(3) take  disciplinary action you against those responsible for the practice

(4) notify all those who have been censored of the period of their censorship and the reason for it

(5) Find out how what definition of “abusive” and “nuisance”  has been applied

6. Quantify the reasons why people have been censored

7. Publish the results of 1-6.

Yours sincerely,

Robert Henderson


Document 6

Robert Henderson


Our ref: 15056810

15 February 2008

Dear Mr Henderson

Thank you for your email of 13 January to the Chairman and BBC Trustees regarding calls to BBC phone-in programmes. I am responding on behalf of the Chairman as I work in the Trust Unit which provides support and advice to the Trust. I do apologise for the delay in responding.

I should explain that the role of the Trust, as set out in the BBC’s Royal Charter, is distinct from that of the BBC Executive. The Trust’s role is to set the BBC’s strategic and editorial frameworks, but responsibility for operational decision, such as that which you raise, rests ultimately with the BBC Director-General.

I am therefore forwarding your email to the Director-General’s office and asking that BBC management respond to your complaint.

Regarding your email to Bruce Vander of 25 September, I understand that Mr Vander responded on the same day. I am attaching a copy of hisresponse for your reference.

Yours sincerely

Victoria Finney

Correspondence Manager

BBC Trust Unit


Document  7

Victoria Finney

Correspondence Manager

BBC Trust Unit

19  2 2008

Dear Ms Finney,

I am advised by OFcom that my complaint does fall within the Trust’s remit – see  Ofcom letter from David Burkin dated 15 1 2008 .

The DG is not an independent arbiter because he is an employee of theorganisation about which I complain. That is a clear breach of natural justice which requires those in judicial or quasi-judicial positions to be disinterested.

Yours sincerely

Robert Henderson


Correspondence with Ofcom

Document 8

7 January 2008

Mr Ed Richards

Chair and CEO


Riverside House

2a Southwark Bridge Road

London SE1 9HA


Switchboard: 020 7981 3000 or 0300 123 3000

CC The BBC Board of Trustees

The BBC Director General

The DCMS Commons Select Committee

Dear  Mr Richards,

Complaint against the  BBC  – the surreptitious censoring of phone-in programmes

I am submitting this complaint directly to you  because of its seriousness. As you will see from the enclosed documentation I have used the Freedom of Information Act to get the BBC to admit that they are censoring callers to phone-in programmes without telling the people who are censored that this is being done.

The censorship is achieved as follows.  The BBC decides someone shall not be allowed on air at any time because they are either making “nuisance calls” or being abusive.  In the case of Radio 5 they do this by using a telephone system which allows the person’s phone number to be marked as banned and the operator then refuses to answer the call. The caller is not told that they have been banned  and the phone is left to ring until either the caller gets tired of trying or the provider of the phone cutsoff the call.  See the BBC’s letter to me of 19 10 2007.

The BBC have only given me the current figures for Radio 5 (239  people banned) because they claim that the cost of  providing it for the BBC in its entirety would exceed the £450 cost limit for FOIA request. (This is almost certainly not so for the reasons given in my letter to Andrea Chard dated 22 10 2007.)  They also claim to have no historical records of  such bans. However, it is clear from their letter of 19 10 2007 that the practice is  a general one and,  consequently,  the numbers of banned people involved throughout the BBC could plausibly be thousands based on the number given for  Radio 5.

I would further draw your attention to the refusal of the BBC to give  names and details of those who have authorised the use of such systems. The BBC  does not define what a nuisance call is or what constitutes abuse. As they operate the system secretly and act  judge and jury  in deciding who shall be banned, the system is clearly  open toconsiderable abuse because they can ban anyone at their whim.

This is a matter of  considerable  public interest for it is indubitably destructive of  what the BBC is meant to be about, namely, fair, honest and impartial broadcasting.  Consequently , it is far  more serious than fixed quiz shows,  dishonestly edited shows  and fixed votes for reality programmes, serious as those are.

I ask you to arrange for this matter to be investigated and for OFCOM to take action to prevent  the practice continuing, to alert the public to the fact that it has been occurring, to obtain the full details of how many people have been banned throughout the BBC,  publish an analysis of the reasons given  by the BBC for the bans  and  ensure that those  who have been banned are notified of the ban, its  duration and the reason for the ban.

I also ask you  to bring what pressure it can on the BBC to discipline those responsible for  the practice.

Yours sincerely,

Robert Henderson


Document 9

Dear Mr Henderson

Thank you for your e-mail to Ed Richards’ Office, which has been forwarded to this team for response.  We’ve noted your concerns about the BBC’s screening of participants to its programmes. We should clarify that while we can investigate complaints about programme content under the Ofcom Broadcasting Code, which sets out standards for violence, language, and a range of other matters including harm and offence generally, the responsibility for the production of programmes lies with the individual broadcasters.  Provided such content is in accordance with our rules decisions as to which individuals are allowed on air are at the editorial discretion of individual broadcasters, in this case the BBC, rather than something Ofcom can influence.

Any complaint about the editorial policy of screening callers to programmes should therefore be pursued with the BBC Trust.  In terms of obtaining background information from the BBC on this subject, the Information Commissioner’s Office may be able to give you furtherguidance on this matter – http://www.ico.gov.uk

Yours sincerely

:: Broadcast Team

Central Operations

Tel: 020 7981 3040

Fax: 020 7981 3334

Email: occbroadcast@ofcom.org.uk

:: Ofcom

Riverside House

2a Southwark Bridge Road

London SE1 9HA

020 7981 3000


10 January 2008


Document  10


Riverside House

2a Southwark Bridge Road

London SE1 9HA

Switchboard: 020 7981 3000 or 0300 123 3000

CC Ed Richards Chair and CEO OFCOM

CMS select committee

Dear Sirs,

Your ostensible reason for taking no action does not stand up to the most cursory scrutiny.  For the past  year  OFCOM have been investigating instances of directly comparable misbehaviour by broadcasters, namely, the wilful deception of the public by reality and quiz shows which invite the viewers and listeners to phone in.

My complaint has a much greater public interest than the quiz and reality show deceptions because the motive here is not to “improve” a programme by making it more exciting or polished,  but to censor views on any subject which does not meet with the BBC’s ideological stance.

Please explain to me why you investigated the reality and quiz show but refuse to investigate my complaint.

When you reply,  pay me the courtesy of  attaching a person’s name and their position  within OFCOM  to your answer. It says a good deal about the mentality of OFCOM that your standard practice appears to be to hide behind anonymous communications.

Yours sincerely,

Robert Henderson


Document 11



Riverside House

2a Southwark Bridge Road

London SE1 9HA


Telephone -4-44 0)20 7981 3000

Textphone +44 (0)20 7981 3043

Facsimile +44 (0)20 7981 3333

Ofcom reference: 1-41818452

15 January 2008

Dear Mr Henderson

Alleged “surreptitious censoring of phone-in programmes” by the BBC Thank you for your email dated 10 January 2008, which has been passed to me, as a Programme Executive in the Standards Team. You ask why we “refuse to investigate” your complaint. I have therefore read all correspondence to  date.

I should state at the outset that Ofcom has not refused to investigate your concerns. We are in fact unable to investigate them. The following may assist you in understanding why:

Both Ofcom and the BBC Trust have specific duties.

Under the Communications Act 2003 Ofcom is the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries, with responsibilities across television, radio, telecommunications and wireless communications services.

The BBC was established by Royal Charter to serve the public interest.

The Charter also recognises the independence of the BBC. The BBC Trust therefore represents the interests of licence fee payers and is responsible for ensuring the effective promotion of the BBC’s public purposes. The Charter and a Framework Agreement between the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the BBC set out the public obligations placed upon the BBC and the duties and functions of the BBC Trust.

The Communications Act 2003, the Broadcasting Act 1996, the Royal Charter and the Framework Agreement set out Ofcom’s duties and powers in relation to the BBC. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) therefore exists between the Ofcom and the BBC Trust, which can be found at, httr://www.ofcom .org. uk/aboutlaccoun/mou/mou. pdf.

In your original email you appeared to question the BBC’s transparency concerning its method of screening out certain callers to its programmes, which you believe brings into question “what the BBC is meant to be about, namely, fair,  honest and  impartial broadcasting.” In so doing, you have identified two  specific issues:

• The level of transparency concerning the BBC’s decision not to answer calls from specific individuals; and • Alleged “censorship” and its implications concerning impartiality.

It is appropriate to address these in reverse order: You will note from the MOU that Ofcom does not have the statutory powers to consider the due impartiality of BBC output. Should you believe the absence from air of specific views has rendered the BBC partial in news and/or on a political (or similar) matter, you should therefore contact the BBC Trust.

Editorial decisions concerning who should feature in a programme, or which specific individual’s view(s) should be represented in a programme,  are entirely down to the broadcaster. Transparency concerning this is therefore a matter you may wish to continue to pursue with the BBC or refer on to the BBC Trust, if you believe that the absence from air of specific individuals’ views is a form of censorship that has rendered the broadcaster partial.

I am sorry that we are unable to assist you further.

Yours sincerely

David Burkin

Content and Standards


Document 12

David Burkin

Content and Standards



Riverside House

2a Southwark Bridge Road

London SE1 9HA

22 1 2008

Dear Mr Burkin,

Your letter of  15 January makes no sense. In 2007 Ofcom investigated various phone-in scandals involving the BBC which included a faked Blue Peter competition for which the BBC was fined £50,000.

My complaint  falls within the same category of behaviour, namely, inviting the public to phone in when it is pointless to do so. That is what I am asking you to investigate. I ask you again to do so.

If you fail to investigate this complaint the only rational conclusion will be that you refuse to investigate this instance of BBC fixing of phone-ins because it is politically inexpedient to do so.

Just to make sure that there is no confusion, I am asking you to investigate the practice of  misleading listeners and viewers into believing they can take place in phone-in programmes when there is no chance of them doing so.

Yours sincerely,

Robert Henderson


Document 13



Riverside House

2a Southwark Bridge Road

London SE1 9HA


Telephone +44 0)20 7981 3000

Textphone +44 0)20 7981 3043

Facsimile +44 10)20 7981 3333

Ofcom reference: 1-41818452

24 January 2008

Mr Robert Henderson

Dear Mr Henderson

Alleged “surreptitious censoring of phone-in programmes” by the BBC Thank you for your email dated 22 January 2008, which now clarifies precisely your current concern – namely, that the BBC may be, “misleading listeners and viewers into believing they can take place in phone-in programmes when there is no chance of them doing so.”

I have only two points to add to my letter dated 15 January 2007:

1. While certain BBC programmes are under investigation by Ofcom, the “phone-in scandals” to which you refer (i.e. those investigated in 2007) included only one sanctionable breach of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code (“the Code”) by the BBC – Blue Peter, which you have cited. The relevant programme included a competition that all viewers were invited (on air) to enter, when none of them had a chance of winning. This resulted in a breach of Rule 2.11 of the Code. Rule 2.11 states:

“Competitions should be conducted fairly, prizes should be describe accurately and rules should be clear and appropriately made known.”

Clearly, this Rule is of no relevance to your current concern.

2. Ofcom is primarily concerned with broadcasters’ output and, clearly, misleading output has the potential to harm viewers. However, any response by members of the home audience to a broadcast invitation for its views (to be made on or off air) may include attempted phone contact by people who have previously made nuisance calls or have been abusive. For such calls to trigger a “warning or banned flag” and alert a phone operator appears to be an appropriate and proportionate response by a broadcaster. It also appears reasonable that a broadcaster could expect the individuals concerned to be aware of the possible implication of their previous actions. Far from raising the matter of “fixing … phone-ins”, the issue appears to concern the treatment of specific individuals off air rather than the potential general misleadingness of programme content.

I am sorry that we remain unable to assist you further.

Yours sincerely,

David Burkin

Programme Executive

Content and Standards


Document 14

Ed Richards



Riverside House

2a Southwark Bridge Road

London SE1 9HA


Telephone +44 0)20 7981 3000

Textphone +44 0)20 7981 3043

Facsimile +44 10)20 7981 3333

Ofcom reference: 1-41818452

19 2 2008

Dear Mr Richards,

I have delayed my response to David Burkin’s letter of 24 January  (seebelow) because I wanted to get the BBC Trust’s response to my complaint to them -see bottom of this email.

In his letter of 15 January (copy below)  M Burkin  advised me to refer the  matter to the BBC Trust, claiming that it fell within their remit not OFcom’s. I have done this. The BBC Trust  say it does not fall within their remit and have referred it to the Director General of the BBC. This is unsatisfactory because it emphatically breaches natural justice as the DG is an employee of the organisation I am complaining about and, hence , by definition not disinterested.  Unless OFcom investigates, there will be  no independent investigation of what is a very serious complaint, because if the BBC are censoring 239 people on Radio 5 alone there must be thousands censored throughout the entire BBC, many thousands possibly bearing in mind the number of local BBC stations which rely very heavily on phone-ins.

Let me now turn to Mr Burkin’s letter of  24 January.  The fact that OFCOM have only fined the BBC for the Blue Peter scandal is irrelevant to my case. You have investigated  other  complaints of a similar nature and that is all I am asking you to do, investigate. The police do not fail to investigate alleged crimes because they do not think they will get a conviction. Neither should OFcom.

Mr Burkin’s claim that flagging those deemed to be abusive or “a nuisance” is “an appropriate and proportionate response by a broadcaster” will strike most people as astonishing. What he is sanctioning  is the BBC operating a covert system of censorship which is operated   entirely at their will and for which no records of why people are censored are kept .

The fact that this censorship is made without telling the person banned that they have been banned means that the person is left in the same situation as those taking part in reality shows and others programmes which invite audience participation such as Blue Peter, namely, they are invited to take part in a programme in which the BBC has ensured they have no chance of taking part.

Mr Burkin’s claim that “It also appears reasonable that a broadcaster could expect the individuals concerned to be aware of the possible implication of their previous actions. Far from raising the matter of “fixing … phone-ins”, the issue appears to concern the treatment of specific individuals off air rather than the potential general misleadingness of programme content ” is best described as ludicrous. Both what  constitutes abuse and “being a nuisance” are very subjective matters. No one could be expected to know that they have been banned, especially when there is no public advertising of this fact by the BBC. Moreover, no matter what has happened previously, the fact that the caller’s  phone will still  ring will make it seem as though there is no problem. The system is designed to deceive.

As for  ” the potential general misleadingness of programme content ” (are you comfortable  with a senior member of your staff writing in such an ugly fashion? ) , the fact that people deemed a “a nuisance” are banned suggests that they may be banned because of their views, i.e., the BBC is directly censoring views.

I ask again that you investigate this matter.

Yours sincerely

Robert Henderson


Document 15

21  January 2008


Dear Mr Boulton,

I have used the Freedom of Information Act to get the BBC to admit that they are censoring callers to phone-in programmes without telling the people who are censored that this is being done.  I enclose below this letter my correspondence with the BBC.

The censorship is achieved as follows.  The BBC decides someone shall not be allowed on air at any time because they are either making “nuisance calls” or being abusive.  In the case of Radio 5 they do this by using a telephone system which allows the person’s phone number to be marked as banned and the operator then refuses to answer the call. The caller is not told that they have been banned  and the phone is left to ring until either the caller gets tired of trying or the provider of the phone cuts off the call.  See the BBC’s letter to me of 19 10 2007.

The BBC have only given me the current figures for Radio 5 (239  people banned) because they claim that the cost of  providing it for the BBC in its entirety would exceed the £450 cost limit for FOIA request. (This is almost certainly not so for the reasons given in my letter to Andrea Chard dated 22 10 2007.)  They also claim to have no historical records of  such bans – the data will almost certainly be recorded on the systems used because deleting does not lose the data only remove it from immediate access.  However, it is clear from their letter of 19 10 2007 that the practice is  a general one and,  consequently,  the numbers of banned people involved throughout the BBC could plausibly be thousands based on the number given for  Radio 5. I would further draw your attention to the refusal of the BBC to give names and details of those who have authorised the use of such systems.

The BBC  does not define what a nuisance call is or what constitutes abuse. As they operate the system secretly and act  judge and jury  in deciding who shall be banned, the system is clearly  open to considerable abuse because they can ban anyone at their whim.

This is a matter of  considerable  public interest for it is indubitably destructive of  what the BBC is meant to be about, namely, fair, honest and impartial broadcasting.  Consequently , it is far  more serious than fixed quiz shows,  dishonestly edited shows  and fixed votes for reality programmes, serious as those are.

I ask you to:

– Investigate when  it began and  who authorised it

– Find out how what definition of “abusive” and “nuisance”  has been applied.

– Interview those responsible both directly and  at the top of their chain of command.

– Broadcast the results of your investigations.

– Allow me to question those responsible on air.

Yours sincerely,

Robert Henderson


Document 16


8 January 2008

Richard Thomas

Information Commissioner

Information Commissioner’s Office

Wycliffe House

Water Lane




Telephone: 01625 545 700


Dear Mr Thomas,

FOIA – Complaint against the BBC for withholding Information

I address this complaint to you because it is a matter of considerable public interest. As you will see from the enclosed correspondence between myself, the BBC and OFCOM,    the BBC have admitted  that they are surreptitiously censoring phone-in programmes  without notifying the people censored that the censorship is happening.

The BBC have given me the present figures for Radio 5  (239 people), but claim that they cannot obtain the same data for the whole of the BBC because  it would exceed the £450 cost limit. This is an extremely dubious claim, because all they need to do is send a single email to all departments and ask them to send the totals of people banned, data which will almost certainly be readily and immediately available by using the search facility on the database or because the system itself automatically counts the numbers.  All they would then have to do is produce a table with each department’s figures. All of that would not constitute 2 and half days work.

They have also refused to give me (even for Radio 5) the  other information I have requested, namely, the  names of those responsible for instigating the system  of censorship and  a breakdown of the reasons why people have been banned. The latter is particularly important because the BBC refuse to describe what constitutes abuse or a nuisance call and are, consequently, a law unto themselves.

I ask that you instruct the BBC to release the numbers for the entire network, give definitions of what constitutes a nuisance call or abuse, release figures showing how many people have been banned for nuisance calls and abuse  and  identify those responsible for instigating the censorship.

If you judge the information regarding nuisance calls and abuse would exceed the £450 limit for the whole of the BBC, please instruct them to release the data for as much as of  the BBC as it will cover.

Yours sincerely,

Robert Henderson


Document 17

In message <721A4F2B7D4908468647E89ADCA4A636245D79@mswhex

02.ico.local>, Rose Warner <Rose.Warner@ico.gsi.gov.uk> writes

For the attention of Mr Robert Henderson

Dear Mr Henderson

In my email of 9 October 2008 (attached for ease of reference) I explained that I was making enquiries of the BBC, and would let you know when I received its response. The BBC replied on 26 January 2009.

May I first say that I recognise that the resolution of your complaint has taken much longer than any of us would have liked, for which I apologise. The BBC has explained that each time an audience member rings the BBC an operator takes their call, records their number and puts this into a database. If the operator deems that the caller has been offensive or abusive it is likely that the number will be tagged with a warning for future reference. The BBC said that the call is not ‘blocked’, the system will not allow this. The phone will still ring, although a symbol will appear on screen so the operator has the discretion whether or not to answer the call. The BBC does tag numbers but not callers themselves, as they may simply ring in from another number.

From the information provided to the Commissioner by the BBC it is clear that there is no co-ordination between the 39 phonebox systems situated, and receiving calls, in the various business units, and it would be up to each business unit to provide its own analysis/interpretation to obtain the information you are seeking. This has been illustrated by the actions of Radio 5 which was able to obtain a raw figure of 239 banned numbers using a particular web page interface which is not, as far as it has been possible to establish, employed by the remaining 38 business units. In view of this and the considerable difficulty in interrogating the system on each of the other 38 sites without this interface, the Commissioner?s likely finding, if there were to be a formal Decision Notice issued in this case, would be that obtaining the BBC-wide information that you seek, would exceed the cost limits, and the BBC would not be required to provide you with that information.

As to your request for details of those who have authorised the use of the system for banning numbers, the BBC has said that that system came as part of the phone package. There was no specific authority for the tagging to be used: the ability to tag a number was intrinsic and a conscious effort would have to be made to disable it. In view of this, the Commissioner’s likely finding would be that the BBC does not hold details of those who authorised the banning of numbers, no such specific authority having been given.

You will understand from the above that a formal decision by the Commissioner is unlikely to find that the BBC should release to you any further information. Whilst I fully understand that this is not the outcome you were seeking, it is debatable whether any useful purpose would be served by the issue of a formal Decision Notice. However, if you wish the Commissioner to proceed to issue such a Notice, please let me know by 9 March 2009.

Yours sincerely

Rose Warner


Document 18

11 February 2009

Mrs Rosemary Warner

Senior Complaints Officer

Information Commissioner’s Office

13th Floor, Millbank Tower, Millbank, London SW1P 4QP

Tel: 0300 051 1545 (Tues-Thurs)

Email: rose.warner@ico.gsi.gov.uk


Dear Ms Warner,

Complaint to the Information Commissioner against the BBC (your


Thank you for your email of 10 February. I want the Commissioner to issue a formal Decision Notice because I believe the refusal of my complaint is mistaken on matters of fact and logic and I want what Iconsider to be a seriously erroneous judgement to be on the public record. My reasons for believing this are as follows:

1. The vast majority of people make calls to BBC phone-ins from their own phones. If the phone rings they have no reason to believe the call is being deliberately disregarded. Moreover, to make calls from a phone other than their own will in most cases be impossible because they do not have immediate access to another phone. The effect of both the lack of knowledge of the blocking and, if they do know or suspect something is happening, of not having access to another phone, is to affect their ability to join in public debate on the BBC.

2. If callers do not know they have been blacklisted they cannot challenge the blacklisting. This denies natural justice and allows the BBC to hide the censorship and progress their own agenda.

3.You write “From the information provided to the Commissioner by the BBC it is clear that there is no co-ordination between the 39 phonebox systems situated, and receiving calls, in the various business units, and it would be up to each business unit to provide its own analysis/interpretation to obtain the information you are seeking. This has been illustrated by the actions of Radio 5 which was able to obtain a raw figure of 239 banned numbers using a particular web page interface which is not, as far as it has been possible to establish, employed by the remaining 38 business units.” The Radio 5 web page you mention is almost certainly a product of the telephone system which is common to the 39 phone-box systems. Hence, the other 38 should be able to generate the details as easily as Radio 5. The cost of doing this would be minimal because all they would need to do is put the same query into each system and then send the results for each business system to me.There is no need to collate. I can do that.  You need to investigate exactly how the R5 web page is generated, i.e., is it something which comes from the common telephone system used by the business 39 units.

4. You write that the BBC’s states that “the ability to tag a number was intrinsic and a conscious effort would have to be made to disable it. ” The point is not whether it is disabled but whether it is used. The act of tagging a phone number requires a deliberate effort by someone at the BBC.

5. You write ” the Commissioner’s likely finding would be that the BBC does not hold details of those who authorised the banning of numbers, no such specific authority having been given.”  There is no logical connection between the fact of the ability to flag numbers as banned and the authority  to do so. Someone must authorise people to use the flagging system otherwise presumably the flagging ability would remain unused because none of those taking calls would feel they had the authority to do it. Nor would those in authority know that it was happening – which my correspondence with Radio 5 demonstrates – unless it was BBC policy.

I ask you to  take these objections to your present interpretation into account when making the formal Decision Notice decision.

Please acknowledge receipt of this email by return.

Yours sincerely

Robert Henderson


Document 19

Information Commissioner’s Office Promoting public access to official

information and protecting your personal information

3 November2009

Dear Mr Henderson-

Freedom of Information Act 2000


Please find enclosed a Decision Notice providing the Commissioner’s decision as to whether the BBC has complied with its duties under the

Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the “Act”). This Decision Notice relates  to your complaint about a request for information that you submitted to  the BBC on 24 September 2007. Following a recent High Court Decision,  your complaint has been carefully considered and in this case the  Commissioner has found that your request was for information held for  the purpose or journalism, art or literature and is therefore not disclosable under the Act.

The Decision Notice outlines the findings of the Commissioner following the recent High Court decision in which the High Court clarified the way information held by the BBC is covered by the Act.

If you disagree with any aspect of the attached Decision Notice, you have the right to appeal to the Information Tribunal. Contact details for the Tribunal are included in the Decision Notice.

The Decision Notice includes details about you and the public authority. This is to ensure that there is no doubt as to the request for information to which the Notice relates. The Commissioner will publish the decision on the ICO website, but will remove all names and addresses of complainants.

Although public authorities may choose to reproduce this Decision Notice,  the Commissioner would expect that they would take similar steps. The Commissioner considers that these may be necessary in order to comply  with the requirements of the Data Protection Act.

I hope the above information is of assistance.

Yours sincerely

Paddy Dillon

Senior Complaints Officer

Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane,

Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF t: 0845 630 6060 f: 01625 524510 e:

mail@ico.gsi.gov.uk w: ico.govuk


The full Decision Notice can be found at:

Click to access fs_50188859.pdf

Decision Notice

Reference: FS50188859 Freedom of Information Act 2000 (Section 50)

Date: 3 November 2009

The Blair daughter’s attempted suicide and the public’s right to know

The British mass media claims it is committed to informing the public. The reality is that it  frequently colludes with politicians to suppress stories. A important  example is the attempted suicide of Blair’s daughter Kathryn in the Spring of  2004 (reports on the web by non-mainstream media  suggest she was taken to hospital on Thursday 13th May 2004, for example, http://www.public-interest.co.uk/aseye/index.htm#Tony ). Every single national  newspaper and broadcaster (including the BBC) refused to use the story.  The BBC’s failure is especially reprehensible because  a public service broadcaster has a special obligation to put anything of political importance  before the public.

How do we know the story is true?  Well, Martin Bright when political editor of the New Statesman confirmed the story verbally to me at a meeting of the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom and Tom Leonard when he was with the Daily Telegraph sent this email when I raised the matter with him:

“ In message <011401c5913d$53a14e40$171b1…@tgl.telegraph.co.uk>, Tom Leonard <tom.leon…@telegraph.co.uk> writes

Dear Mr Henderson, thanks for your email. The problem with the story about the Blairs’ daughter is that the BBC was far from alone in ignoring it. I think the whole of Fleet Street ignored it too on the grounds of sensitivity and intrusion into privacy (she is a minor of course).

However, you are completely right about the BBC’s vested interest and well done for pointing it out to Mr Grade. The BBC is too used to never being properly grilled by >the public.

Regards, Tom Leonard”

Then there is the behaviour of  the BBC.  I twice confronted  Michael Grade when he was  BBC chairman with the failure of the BBC to run the story.

The first occasion was at the Viewers and Listeners Spring Conference in April 2005. Grade claimed not to know the story, but refused to discuss the matter. Later I wrote to him asking him to justify his failure to make the story public. Grade did not reply but I received a letter from the BBC’s Head of communications Tina Stowell which ran “The question you raised at the VLV Seminar on 25 April relating to the Prime Minister’s daughter is not one which the BBC Chairman will respond to in public or via correspondence.”

The second occasion was at the Governors “AGM” at Television Centre on 19 July 2005. After the programme, The Governors rashly mingled with the audience. I managed to corner Grade for about five minutes and ask him in front of plenty of witnesses why he had censored the story of the Blair daughter’s attempted suicide, especially after I had raised the matter with him in April 2005 at the Voice of the Viewer and Listeners Spring Conference. He tried to make a joke of it, but before he escaped I asked him the following question: Do you believe the story is true? He refused to answer. ’nuff said.

At the same meeting I lobbied four other Governors: Deborah Bull, Merfyn Jones, Fabian Monds, Ranjit Sondhi and Angela Sarkis. Without exception they all seemed painfully startled by the news. I got a promise from each to look into the matter if I sent them the full details. I wrote to them and the other Governors on 20 July 2005. None have replied. Instead, I again received a letter from Tina Stowell (22 July 2005). This ran “Thank you for your letter to the Board of Governors. The BBC’s position remains the same as in my previous letter.” I then submitted a formal complaint through the governors’ website of 28 July 2005. This elicited no reply.

I raised the failure of the  BBC to act on BBC phone-in programmes and was always cut off immediately I had raised the subject.   I wrote to Feedback, the programme which supposedly deals with listeners concerns with the BBC, asking them to investigate the censorship. They failed to do so.

In addition to this evidence, there were  also references in the mainstream media  in 2004 of a family matter which could persuade Blair to resign.  It is reasonable to conclude that the ‘family matter’ was Kathryn Blair’s attempted suicide.  Interestingly, Cherie Blair said this in an interview in 2009:

”  Mrs Blair has also told Italian paper La Repubblica that Nicky and Kathryn were taunted at school over their father’s decision to send troops into Iraq in 2003 to stop Saddam developing weapons of mass destruction.

‘They had some really difficult moments at school. Everybody called their father a liar,’ she said.” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1211450/The-young-OBlairs–Former-Prime-Ministers-children-Irish-passports-thanks-grandmother.html

There is the strongest public interest in the media running stories such as Kathryn Blair’s suicide.  Politicians are by definition professional moralists because they tell  everyone how to live through the laws they pass and the moral judgements they publicly make. For that reason alone, in a democracy the electorate need to know how their private lives match up to that which they ordain for others.

But there are other good reasons. Blackmail is one and the effect on a politician’s mind and behaviour of traumatic events another. Clearly, this event was such as to potentially seriously  destabilise Blair’s mental balance. As he was PM  the public had a right to know what he was undergoing.

To argue that a child must be given anonymity at all costs is nonsensical. It would, for example, prevent the release of names and details for a child who has gone missing.

Nor is there any reluctance on the part of the media to constantly name children who have done something wrong which stops short of an appearance in a criminal court. In addition, in some criminal cases, the ban on identifying children is lifted and the media again is only too happy to identify them, often in ways which may incite attacks on the child or parents.

It is also true that children generally have to bear the humiliation and shock of seeing their parents and other adult relatives named in the media when they have committed a crime or behaved immorally. That is at least as traumatic as the child being named.

Tellingly, the media have no difficulty with reporting failed teenage generally can be seen from the vivid example of Rebecca Ling, the survivor of a suicide pact*. Both at the time of the suicide pact and during the inquest into the girl who died the BBC and every other mainstream media outlet reported the story with her name, in depth and sensationally. What is sauce for the Man on the Clapham omnibus gander should be sauce for the PM goose. It should not be for the media to decide what they will and will not put before the public when there is a matter of great public interest at issue. Clearly, the Blair child’s case was  suppressed because of political pressure and/or bias on the part of the media.   (It is worth adding that the children of the elite gain great privileges simply by virtue of their accident of birth. The downside is that they may be under greater scrutiny than the ordinary child in the street.)

Why was the story so completely suppressed? I would suggest this. In modern Britain it is next to impossible to force a Prime Minister out of office for political reasons. Where a Government has a massive majority it is impossible. The only thing which could bring Blair down was personal scandal. that is why the story of his daughter’s attempted suicide was  so ruthlessly effected.

* See these examples of British mainstream media coverage of Rebecca Ling’s attempted suicide:




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