BBC spent almost £333,000 concealing Mideast ‘Balen Report’

Conservative news site reveals broadcaster’s efforts to suppress a 2004 study on its coverage of Israeli-Palestinian conflict

BBC television headquarters in London (photo credit: CC BY SA Amanda Slater/Flikr)
BBC television headquarters in London (photo credit: CC BY SA Amanda Slater/Flikr)

The British Broadcasting Corporation has spent almost £333,000 in legal costs associated with its efforts to conceal the Balen Report, a 2004 internal inquiry into the BBC’s coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict whose contents were never released to the public.

The BBC was recently forced to reveal the legal fees as a result of a Freedom of Information request from conservative news site The Commentator, which reported on Sunday that the total amount was £332,780.47, more than $500,000.

The real figure is likely higher, because in-house hours and Value-Added Tax were not calculated into the released figures, the website said.

The Balen Report, written by veteran journalist Malcolm Balen, was originally commissioned in response to allegations that the BBC had an anti-Israel bias in its reporting. It was never released, leading to a series of legal battles to divulge its contents.

The revelation comes at a time when the publicly funded BBC is facing deep cuts and looking to downsize. BBC head Mark Thompson recently said the corporation was “getting very, very close to the edge.”

The BBC’s response to The Commentator’s inquiry, dated August 10, 2012, reiterated the organization’s stance that the release of the Balen Report was not obligatory under the Freedom of Information Act. The broadcaster cited a 2010 UK Supreme Court judgment to that effect.

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