Saturday, 21 August 2010

Top Fifty BBC Freedom of Information Requests For Which Information Was Not Held But Which We Shall Try To Answer On Their Behalf: Part Three

More from the pile of BBC Freedom Of Information cold cases. First up, a few requests that seem more than a little self-centred.


Has been caught on a "speed camera" and wonders if under FOI he can see the film of the alleged crime. (ref RFI2005000230, 02/10/05) 

Admittedly, we’re kicking off this “oddly specific” section with a request that could do with being a lot more specific. Does the individual involved mean his “alleged crime” (i.e. actual crime – if a speed sign says “40”, and you drive through the area that speed sign represents at 50mph, it’s against the law, no matter how much you might mutter about how “they” should be out arresting paedophiles and terrorists instead of pestering ‘innocent’ motorists) took place right outside a BBC building and might therefore be captured on CCTV cameras operated from within the Corporation? Or is he just dim enough to assume the BBC has access to all speed cameras everywhere?

We’ll assume the former, and have therefore commissioned this re-enactment:


Guilty as charged we’re afraid, Mr RFI2005000230.

CCTV footage from 29/5/09 outside the BBC main building in Oxford Road, Manchester, in which this person appears between 6:30pm and 8pm. (ref RFI20090991, 6/16/09)

Oh, jeez. Another one of these requests? Very well, we’ve contacted the BBC, asked politely for the footage ourselves, had our request denied, got a job as a cleaner at BBC Manchester, sneaked into the CCTV archive after dark, and finally uncovered the information you have requested.

And here it is:


Information about individual - confirmation whether individual worked at BBC in 1975. (ref RFI2005000883, 11/13/05) 

Must admit, we’re a little curious about why someone would be asking this. Is there an annoying bloke down the pub who just can’t stop going on about how he was the floor manager for the 1975 Mike Yarwood Christmas Special? Is someone’s dad always going on about how he used to be the weatherman for Look East in the mid 1970s, and his family aren’t quite sure if he’s being truthful? Maybe there’s an old man in a nursing home who just won’t stop banging on about how he invented Ceefax, and the nurses need to know whether they should up his daily medication of Truthanol?

It’s hard to know just how to progress with this one, until “ref RFI2005000883” helpfully contacted us directly, providing us with an old family photo taken in 1975. It’s his Uncle Leo who claims to have been working at the BBC in 1975, but we probably need more help to track him down. Can any of our readers confirm or deny that “Uncle Leo” (pictured on the left of this photo) did indeed work at the BBC in 1975? Any help here would be much appreciated.


Was [name] employed by the BBC around 1992? (ref RFI20080156, 11/29/07)

ANOTHER request like this. We’re almost starting to wish we hadn’t bothered with this section now. Are there loads of people going around, boasting about how they used to work for the BBC or something? Why? Is it some kind of tax thing? Do women secretly love meeting cameramen who once appeared in a BBC VT Christmas tape that has since appeared on YouTube? Or in this case, has someone been boasting about the number of times they made V-signs behind John Birt’s back in the lift at Broadcasting House?

Actually, now we think about it, it might well be the case that someone is trying to track down their biological parents or long-lost family members, and we really shouldn’t be using their sincere requests in such a flippant way. We’re monsters, basically. MONSTERS. 

To try and make things a bit better, this time we really did contact the person requesting evidence of their family member, and while we don’t have access to the BBC’s database of former employees, we’re hoping that at least one of our readers has worked at the BBC around this time, and might be able to put someone in touch with the person pictured. We’ve sourced a photo of the family member in question, and we hope that someone out there might be able to help identify the (possible) former BBC employee. His name is “Uncle Bob”, and he’s pictured on the far right of this family snapshot, taken in early 1992:


Information on a past BBC employee, who worked as a carpenter in the early to mid 50s.  (ref RFI20081072, 10/2/08)

Oh, for Cliff Michelmore’s sake. Blah blah tracked down blah blah family photo blah blah “Uncle Phil”…


Requester wants to trace an individual. The individual being sought is not a BBC employee - the correspondent is just looking for advice on how to trace. (ref RFI20081126, 10/20/08) 

Requester can sodding well look them up in the bloody Phone Book.

How much is a named individual paid. (ref RFI20100070, 1/18/10)
Having looked into this one, the person requesting the information is actually the spouse of the “named individual”, wanting to know why they can’t go somewhere a bit nicer on holiday next year.

We’ll close this update with a couple of shorter requests, that hopefully won’t need us to lazily Photoshop anything…


BBC policy on drug taking by artists/performers (ref RFI2005000273, 02/18/05)

We’d actually love there to be a policy on ‘drug taking by artists and performers’. “What’s that? You’ve taken drugs, ever? I’m sorry, you’re no longer welcome at the BBC. Nor you. You too. And the rest of you can clear off, too. Right, that’s all those wastrels taken care of. Who have we got left in the panel for tonight’s recording of Mock The Week?” “[PUNCHLINE CENSORED UNDER LEGAL ADVICE.]”

Code of language for radio presenters (ref RFI2005000293, 02/17/05)

Even better. We’ve mentioned before how the ITC’s report on swearing on television is possibly the most entertaining PDF ever placed on a corporate website, but one stating a similar code of conduct for radio presenters would also be a hugely great read. Admittedly, it wouldn’t change much – there’s technically no watershed on the radio, meaning that (as far as our limited knowledge extends) there aren’t any real rules in place to stop disc jockeys cussing like Malcolm Tucker stuck in a phone queue, but every knows from the tabloid uproar each time Chris Moyles says anything vaguely controversial, it’s not really worth the hassle of swearing before 9pm anyway. We must admit though, we do really like listening to Australia’s Triple J (their state-funded equivalent to BBC 6 Music), where the DJs are free to play the unexpurgated expletive-packed original versions of songs providing there’s a short disclaimer jingle beforehand. 

Once we’re in charge of Ofcom, we’ll put in place a “national radio swear jar”. Any radio presenter can swear as much as they cucking well like, as long as they’re prepared to pay a nominal fee per ‘bad word’. There’d be a sliding scale, starting at 50p per ‘bloody’, rising to £5 per ‘fuck’, with a special £20,000 fine for mentioning anything to do with ‘Nickelback’. A-ha-ha.

To close off, an example of someone Doing It All Wrong.


Documents, memos reports or correspondence relating to Bill Grundy's interviews with the Sex Pistols on BBC TV tx 1/12/76 (ref RFI2006000717 , 12/05/06) 

[FAMILY FORTUNES WRONG ANSWER KLAXON NOISE] Oh dear. The requester has got the airdate and everything correct, then messed it up by not remembering that the Sex Pistols/Bill Grundy interview was on ITV. No points.

More soon! (And hopefully more entertainingly. This wasn’t a very good update, was it? Sorry.)

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