British Broadcasting Corporation v Sugar and Another: Admn 2 Oct 2009

Disclosure was sought of a report prepared by the BBC to assess the balance of its coverage of middle east affairs. The BBC said that the information was not held for purposes other than those of journalism, art or literature. One issue was whether the test was as to whether there was a ‘predominant’ use element.
Held: The document was disclosable. The BBC had no obligation to disclose information which they hold to any significant extent for the purposes of journalism, art or literature, whether or not the information is also held for other purposes. The words of the statute do not mean that the information is disclosable if it is held for purposes distinct from journalism, art or literature, whilst it is also held to any significant extent for those listed purposes. If the information is held for mixed purposes, including to any significant extent the purposes listed in the Schedule or one of them, then the information is not disclosable.
The suggested distinction between journalism and functional journalism was not valid. ‘The BBC’s obligations of impartiality, obligations which are perhaps more apt to ‘journalism’ than to art or literature, are not divorced from the activity of journalism. Indeed, it seems to me that in taking decisions which ensure that the BBC conforms to its obligations of impartiality, journalistic considerations are absolutely central. Indeed, such decisions seem to me to fall squarely within the definition the Tribunal gave of the third limb of ‘functional journalism’. Ensuring impartiality, whilst creating conditions in which challenging and penetrating journalistic coverage is possible, may well be described as strategic thinking and decision-making, but such a task is surely intrinsically concerned with journalistic output, even if the immediate activity of reviewing adherence to the Charter obligations may not be ‘journalism’ in the sense of the activity of journalism.’
The predominant purpose test could not either be used. The language used did not allow that reading.


Irwin J


[2009] EWHC 2349 (Admin), [2010] EMLR 6, [2010] ACD 3, [2010] 1 All ER 782




Freedom of Information Act 2000


England and Wales


At HLSugar v British Broadcasting Corporation and Another HL 11-Feb-2009
The Corporation had commissioned a report as to its coverage of Middle East issues. The claimant requested a copy, and the BBC refused saying that the report having been obtained for its own journalistic purposes, and that it was not covered by the . .
See AlsoSugar and Another v British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) CA 25-Jan-2008
The court upheld Davis J’s decision that neither the Commissioner nor the Tribunal had had any jurisdiction to entertain Mr Sugar’s challenges to the BBC’s refusal to disclose the Balen report. . .
See AlsoBritish Broadcasting Corporation v Sugar and Another Admn 27-Apr-2007
The applicant sought publication of a report prepared for the respondent as to the even handedness of its reporting of matters in the middle east. The BBC had refused saying that the release of the report would have direct impact on its ability to . .
CitedBlack-Clawson International Ltd v Papierwerke Waldhof Aschaffenburg AG HL 5-Mar-1975
Statute’s Mischief May be Inspected
The House considered limitations upon them in reading statements made in the Houses of Parliament when construing a statute.
Held: It is rare that a statute can be properly interpreted without knowing the legislative object. The courts may . .
CitedRegina v Secretary of State for the Environment Transport and the Regions and another, ex parte Spath Holme Limited HL 7-Dec-2000
The section in the 1985 Act created a power to prevent rent increases for tenancies of dwelling-houses for purposes including the alleviation of perceived hardship. Accordingly the Secretary of State could issue regulations whose effect was to limit . .
CitedWaugh v British Railways Board HL 12-Jul-1979
No Litigation Privilege without Dominant Purpose
An internal report had been prepared by two of the Board’s officers two days after a collision involving the death of a locomotive driver, whose widow brought the action and now sought its production.
Held: The court considered litigation . .
CitedDepartment for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform v O’Brien and Information Commissioner QBD 10-Feb-2009
The court considered a claim for legal professional privilege by the Department.
Held: The Tribunal had properly directed itself that there was a strong public interest in non-disclosure inbuilt into legal professional privilege but: ‘In the . .
CitedYeboah v Crofton CA 31-May-2002
The industrial tribunal had made a finding of direct race discrimination. The Employment Appeal Tribunal found the decision perverse, and ordered a rehearing. The applicant appealed that order.
Held: The EAT must be careful not to take . .
At ITSugar v Information Commissioner IT 29-Aug-2006
IT At this preliminary hearing the Tribunal finds that at the time of the request made by Mr Sugar to the BBC for a copy of the Balen Report it was held for purposes other than those of journalism, art or . .
At ITSugar v Information Commissioner IT 29-Aug-2006
The Preliminary Issue before the Information Tribunal
The Tribunal decided on 2 March 2006, under its rule 10 procedure (summary disposal of appeals – The Information Tribunal (Enforcement Appeals) Rules 2005 (the Rules), in the absence of the . .
Appeal fromSugar v Information Commissioner IT 14-May-2009
. .

Cited by:

Appeal fromSugar v The British Broadcasting Commission and Another (No 2) CA 23-Jun-2010
The respondent had had prepared a report as to the balance of its reporting of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Earlier proceedings had established that the purposes of the holding of the reporting included jurnalism. The claimant now appealed . .
CitedSugar v British Broadcasting Corporation and Another (2) SC 15-Feb-2012
The claimant sought release of a report prepared by the respondent as to its coverage of the Arab/Israel conflict partly for journalistic purposes, and partly for compliance.
Held: The appeal failed. Where the report was prepared even if only . .
CitedDepartment for Work and Pensions v The Information Commissioner and Another CA 27-Jul-2016
The applicant sought disclosure of certain organisations who had provided placements for those seeking work. They said that in the past disclosure had led to adverse publicity for those organisations, and refused disclosure under the department’s . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Information, Media

Updated: 12 October 2022; Ref: scu.375611