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The Media United Kingdom Science

Wayback Machine Trumps FOI Tribunal 401

New submitter calder123 writes "Last week, the BBC won an FOIA tribunal ruling that they didn't have to reveal the names of attendees at a seminar in 2006, designed to shape the BBC's coverage of climate change issues. The document, uncovered by Maurizio Morabito, puts comments by the BBC that the meeting was held under Chatham House rules, and that the seminar drew on top scientific advice in an interesting light. In a bizarre coincidence, four of the BBC's attendees at the seminar have resigned in the last few days."
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Wayback Machine Trumps FOI Tribunal

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  • Re:Must be nice (Score:5, Informative)

    by Spad ( 470073 ) <slashdot AT spad DOT co DOT uk> on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @10:32AM (#41967053) Homepage

    The BBC is not state-run, it is a publicly (not government) funded independent body.

  • Re:Must be nice (Score:5, Informative)

    by jabuzz ( 182671 ) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @10:43AM (#41967167) Homepage

    No because the government has virtually no power whatsoever over what the content provided by the BBC; excepting that the Foreign Office pays (or at least did in the past) some money to the BBC to run the World Service and sets the amount of the license fee.

  • Re:Must be nice (Score:5, Informative)

    by telchine ( 719345 ) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @10:46AM (#41967203)

    Isn't that kind of semantic? They have the power to tax.

    The BBC is funded by a licence. It is not funded by tax.

    I can choose not to pay for a licence. I can not choose not to pay tax.

  • Re:Must be nice (Score:4, Informative)

    by geminidomino ( 614729 ) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @10:48AM (#41967239) Journal

    I think it's akin to what techies have called "The Microsoft Tax," or paying for a copy of Windows that you might not want when buying a new PC. IANAB, but as I understand it, you CAN buy a TV without a BBC license, if you're only using it as a monitor for a DVD player, console, computer, etc... but there's some hoops to jump through to get them to stop bugging you about it.

  • Re:Must be nice (Score:4, Informative)

    by jabuzz ( 182671 ) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @10:58AM (#41967379) Homepage

    They must be referring to the "license fee" which unlike a tax is not collected by Her Majesties Revenue and Customs (here after the HMRC) on behalf of the treasury.

    The license fee is collected these days by the BBC, but they subcontract it out. Admittedly it is payed into the consolidated fund, but comes straight back out in it's entirety to the BBC.

    Technically it is not a tax, though the Office for National Statistics does classify it as a tax, and most people might see it however incorrectly as such.

  • Re:Must be nice (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @10:59AM (#41967397)

    That's like saying you can choose to not pay sales tax by simply not buying anything, hence it's not a tax. There's no tax that you can't avoid by simply not doing anything. You buy a TV, money from that goes to the BBC. It's semantics, government agency, tax payer funded, etc.

  • Re:Must be nice (Score:5, Informative)

    by somersault ( 912633 ) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @11:03AM (#41967435) Homepage Journal

    Nope. You can own a telly and use it for consoles, DVDs, streaming iPlayer, 4OD, etc and you don't need a license for any of it. You only legally need a license if you watch any live broadcast TV, online or otherwise.

  • "live broadcast television transmissions" You can own a TV and not pay the license fee, so long as you're not watching live TV on it or any other device in your home.
  • Re:Must be nice (Score:5, Informative)

    by chowells ( 166602 ) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @11:12AM (#41967537) Homepage

    As of 2006, the licence fee *is* considered a tax. []

    "Parliament and not Government should set the level of the licence fee. In January 2006, the Office of National Statistics classified the licence fee as a tax for the first
    time. We are very concerned about the consequences that this decision will have for the BBC’s independence."

  • Re:Must be nice (Score:4, Informative)

    by SilentMobius ( 10171 ) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @11:13AM (#41967553)

    It's a colloquialism. To receive live TV you must have a TV licence, buying a TV is orthogonal to this. If I own a computer and use BBC iplayer to watch live TV I also need a licence, the fact you have bought a physical TV or not is irreverent, the question is are you receiving live TV signals.

    IMHO the BBC is a public funded body that functions as an independent news service by royal charter, it is not an organ of government and thus should not be subject for FOI requests just like any other news service

  • Re:WTF is a FOI (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @11:14AM (#41967563)

    or is it a FOIA ?
    And what are Chatham House rules? (I know where the Chatham Islands are, but I don't think that has anything to do with this)

    And does a "Wayback Machine" look like a blue phone booth with the word "Police" on and a flashing light on top?

    I'll bite.

    The Royal Institute of International Affairs is also known as Chatham House. The Chatham House Rule states that when a meeting is held under such rule, participants are free to use information from the meeting, but not to disclose the identity nor affiliation of any speaker or other participant. This is in contrast to meetings held "on the record," in which all names and affiliations are fair game for disclosure.

    FOIA is Freedom Of Information Act

    The "Wayback Machine" at the Internet Archive is a search engine that delivers content archived from the web over the years. It was named after the time machine from the "Peabody" short animated features that delivered a not-exactly-correct view of real historical events, aired as side features along with other Jay Ward productions such as "Rocky and Bullwinkle." No, it didn't look like a police box.

  • by trnk ( 1887028 ) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @11:16AM (#41967589)

    You can own as many TV's as you want, you can watch DVD's, play on a console, stand your drinks on them, all without a license, all perfectly legally. You only need a license if you are using your TV to watch a live broadcast.
  • by xaxa ( 988988 ) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @11:17AM (#41967613)

    ... but there's some hoops to jump through to get them to stop bugging you about it.

    Not according to my British friends, there's not. They just keep bugging you. One of my friends (generally known in the Crome OS and Raspberry Pi communities as "Hexxeh") finally just gave in and paid the fee, even though he only ever uses the thing as a monitor. I told him he was nuts, but the lack of a BBC weenie calling him on his cell phone weekly apparently causes the license to pay for itself in reduced cell minutes.

    I suspect if the UK ever got a working "do not call list", then the BBC would do the same thing the US companies and "free cruise!" scammers in the US have done, and just offshore the robo-calls.

    Lots of things wrong with that.

    1) The TV licensing people don't pester you if you tell them (possibly in writing?) that you don't use the TV to receive broadcasts. I have a TV, and haven't been asked to buy a license for over three years now. I was originally asked once, when I moved into this house and the previous resident's license (the license is for the property) expired.

    2) They don't call, they send letters and -- very occasionally -- visit in person.

    3) It's free to receive phone calls here.

    4) A company you don't have dealings with is breaking the law to telephone you, as they don't have your permission.

  • by Alioth ( 221270 ) <no@spam> on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @11:51AM (#41968121) Journal

    That doesn't make sense. We don't pay for *incoming* phone calls on a mobile phone in Britain (or on a landline phone for that matter). You only pay for *outgoing* calls.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @11:56AM (#41968191)

    While it annoys me how everyone is quickly wearing out the expression, "the new normal", I'm going to do my part and point out that stupidity seems to be the new normal.

    First of all, weather professionals and even climate change advocates are careful to point out that Sandy is an individual even that cannot be proven to be related to climate change. Only dim witted sensationalists and politicians are claiming it to be further proof of climate change.

    Here is a list of storms and hurricanes that have impacted New York over the years. [] Please be sure to note the lack of meaningful differences in storm count between now and our pre-carbon fearing days.

    Proclaiming Sandy to be proof of climate change/global warming is stupidity. Unfortunately, stupidity seems to be the new normal.

  • by u38cg ( 607297 ) <> on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @12:04PM (#41968313) Homepage
    Impartiality does not mean blindly reciting the viewpoints of opposing sides in any debate (something the BBC are already wont to do).
  • Re:Must be nice (Score:5, Informative)

    by Xest ( 935314 ) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @12:16PM (#41968505)

    It can be a fairly muddy term.

    When people say government they're usually referring to the subset of members of parliament who are currently in power.

    Technically though the civil service which are the permanent unelected staff who help run our society by advising the government in power what the protocol is when they want to arrange a meeting with a world leader and that sort of thing are also government, but if I was to refer to them I'd just call them what they are The Civil Service.

    I wouldn't call the police government, I wouldn't call the NHS government, I wouldn't call the army government, I wouldn't call the judiciary government. Whilst the likes of the judiciary makes decisions with no government influence and has the power to even hold government to account I would however say that the government determines from a high level how they are run.

    This is where the BBC is still different from these other organisations though, the government has absolutely no power to determine how the BBC is run. It can do nothing more than set the cost of the license fee by limiting any increases which can put the squeeze on it somewhat but that's about it.

    Technically the BBC only answers to the Queen as it exists by Royal Charter, so if for some reason, say the BBC unveiled itself as a bunch of lizardmen intent on taking over the world giving the government a real actual reason to take control of it or destroy it then the most government could do is push a motion in parliament to disband it, then present that to the Queen who along with her advisors would decide what to do - i.e. whether to withdraw the charter. Even this would require a lot of legal wrangling on behalf of the Queen though and her advisors - i.e. whether there was legitimate cause to do so under law and so forth. They found it hard enough to even revoke a knighthood given to someone a couple of years back who turned out to be not quite so deserving of it after all so revoking the BBC's charter would likely be very difficult indeed.

    So I suppose in theory the government could go about attempting to influence or disband the BBC via the Queen, but there are two reasons that wont happen:

    1) Any government doing this would probably find it more fatal to them than the BBC such that they'd probably see so many rebellions and be kicked out of power so quickly that they wouldn't have chance to take it anywhere. Just to reiterate the point, this would be about as politically untenable as the president deciding to rip up the US constitution in the US whilst nuking a few US states for fun.

    2) Whilst the BBC remains a quality organisation, the Queen would probably quite literally tell the government to go fuck itself. One of the few actual executive things she'd rightfully have the power to do in this day and age where she's really nothing more than an ornament that brings in the tourists with her estates and history.

  • Re:Disruption (Score:5, Informative)

    by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @01:52PM (#41970135) Homepage

    In about 30 seconds with Google, I found:
    - an entire book [] on the subject
    - Greenpeace [], for whatever their word is worth, claiming that the Koch brothers have donated over $61 million to the cause of denying global warming.
    - a 2007 article from Newsweek [] about it.

    I could keep going, but the point is that this is a demonstrably incorrect counterargument (or the pro-global warming folks have some sort of massive conspiracy that they've been able to keep going for a couple of decades).

Honesty is for the most part less profitable than dishonesty. -- Plato