The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has ordered the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) to hand over information relating to incentives that were part of a TV licensing contract it has with outsourcing firm Capita.
The inquiry was initially in the form of a Freedom of Information request, but when the BBC refused to comply with this, stating that it would “prejudice” its commercial interests, the ICO resorted to a full disclosure order.
Steve Wood, the Head of Policy Delivery at the ICO, said that the BBC “incorrectly applied” an exemption to its original inquiry on the basis that it was not in the public’s interest that contractor incentives be released. Wood said that the ICO disagrees, believing that the BBC, as an independent public broadcaster, must be “open to public scrutiny”.
While it appears that the BBC itself is the focus of investigations here, Capita has been in hot water numerous times in the past. It was involved in a number of disputed public programmes, including the Criminal Records Bereau, where it was fined £2 million for failing to providing criminal background checks, and the Individual Learning Accounts scheme, which was closed after allegations of fraud.
The BBC now has 35 days to deliver the relevant information to the ICO. Failure to do so may result in more serious consequences.