Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Equality Bill: possible opt-out for broadcasters (continued)

My blog on 21 August 2009 included the DCMS response to my question about an opt-out from the Equality Bill for the BBC and Channel 4. I followed up this response and this evening received the following:

Response from DCMS on 26 January 2010

Thank you for your request for information regarding the Equality Bill, which was received in DCMS on 24 December 2009 and has been treated under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Your request read as follows:

“Could I ask if the DCMS holds any information which would indicate whether it was the BBC or Channel 4 which instigated the request for an opt-out from the Equality Bill?

Were people from the DCMS in communication with Channel 4 or with the BBC prior to the formal request for an opt-out?”

As you may be aware, the Freedom of Information Act enables requesters to access information that is held on record within a public body, provided that the information is not exempt under the legislation.

I am sorry to inform you that on this occasion we do not hold any information on either of the questions within the parameters of your request. I would like to explain that:

  • There was no single formal ‘opt out’ request. It arose, during discussions with the BBC and Channel 4 about what the Bill would cover and the risks it might pose, that the broadcasters’ would prefer certain exemptions, there was no formal approach.

  • DCMS and the BBC and Channel 4 engage in many discussions cutting across a wide range of issues. The question of how best to promote equality is likely to have been discussed on many occasions.

  • The BBC and Channel 4 also engage in many bi-lateral discussions without DCMS being present. These meetings will cut across a variety of subjects that concern both organisations. We do not hold details of discussions between Channel 4 and the BBC unless this department was part of the discussion. It would, therefore, be impossible for us to state conclusively whether there were discussions between the two broadcasters prior to discussions with DCMS or which of the two organisations may have been the first to raise concerns about the Equality Bill to the other.

  • You may be interested to know that there was, in April 2009, joint representation from the Broadcasters discussing the Equality Bill in general terms and setting out certain concerns. We do not consider this a formal ‘opt out’, and for this reason it has not been included as part of the consideration of your request. It remains part of the policy development of the Bill.

    If there is a specific issue you are concerned about regarding the extent to which broadcasters are bound to take account of or actively promote equality, I would be happy to facilitate a response from the Department. Please do let me know if I can assist further on this issue.

    Yours sincerely,

    No comments: