Half a year ago, we reported on the campaign of a British lawyer and friend of Israel to force the BBC to publicly release the Balen Report - the BBC's own investigation into whether it holds an anti-Israel bias. That blog entry of ours was published under the title "16-Aug-11: When the powers at the BBC put this much effort into something, they must really care". The lawyer, Steven Sugar, died in January 2011 before the matter could come on for hearing in the courts. His widow took up the challenge and as we wrote then, we wished her the greatest of success, and the courage and energy to keep going.
Here's the outcome as reported in the Jewish Chronicle this week:
The Supreme Court will not force the BBC to reveal a report commission into potentially biased reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The court's five justices unanimously dismissed the appeal of solicitor Steven Sugar, who had demanded the BBC release the internal 2004 report, compiled by the BBC's senior editorial consultant Malcolm Balen, under the Freedom of Information Act. Mr Sugar, described as a "respected solicitor and supporter of the s tate of Israel", had fought the case since 2005. He died of cancer in January last year. His widow, psychologist Fiona Paveley and Mr Sugar's former firm, Forsters, took on the case. The BBC had argued it was exempt from releasing the report because it was "for the purposes of journalism, literature or art." Four out of five of the Supreme Court judges ruled that the report was beyond the scope of the Freedom of Information Act, even if information was held only "partly for the purposes of journalism." Lord Wilson ruled that if information was held "predominantly" for the purposes of journalism, it was outside the scope of the act, and he judged that to be the case with the Balen Report.Back in August we said that we're not hostile to the BBC or its journalists, some of whom we greatly admire. What we are firmly against is the hypocrisy that characterizes its corporate approach to terrorism in our midst (we do mean "our midst") and the high-handedness that has accompanied the Balen Report saga from the outset. The BBC fully deserves to be judged against the very highest of ethical, legal and journalistic standards. Its management's conduct of a campaign to bury the report speaks eloquently for itself.
A great pity that the judgement we so wanted to see was subverted by a narrow technicality.