The BBC faced fierce criticism today as Liberal Democrat Peer Lord Tyler branded the corporation ‘arrogant and devious’.

The constitutional affairs spokesman’s comments follow a testy exchange of letters with the BBC Freedom of Information Unit, which has refused to release the voting figures for Strictly Come Dancing’s final and semi-final, claiming the information is not covered by transparency rules.

Lord Tyler demanded the results be made public after a debacle saw millions of viewers waste money calling the Strictly semi-final to vote, even though the programme’s producers decided not to eliminate any of the couples at that stage. The BBC received over 1400 complaints from viewers and was forced to offer refunds.

Richard Curwen, Head of Legal, Business Affairs and Brand Management tells Lord Tyler that the data is not covered by the Freedom of Information Act since information relating to “journalism, art or literature” is exempt. The angry Peer has now appealed his case to the Information Commissioner and to the BBC Trust.

Commenting, Lord Tyler said:

“There is no public interest whatever in keeping this important election data secret.

“These are standards of transparency more resonant of Zimbabwe than of a democratic country with effective freedom of information rules. Even Mugabe eventually had to release voting figures once the election was over.

“Licence payers’ cash has been spent in the millions on Strictly Come Dancing and the programme’s production has turned from fiasco to farce. The very least people now deserve is to see exactly how many votes were cast for each couple. The BBC seem to think that we are all fools, with this pathetic excuse for secrecy.

“Even if these data cannot be released while a particular series is being screened, there can be no sense in concealing them once the contest is over. We do not expect General Election results to be published until every constituency has closed its polls. The same principle applies: once all the votes are cast, and the competition is finished, everyone should see be able to see the winner’s path to victory.

“The Information Commissioner has apparently ruled before that voting figures relate to journalism, art or literature. I think there are serious questions about the validity of that judgement.

“However, the BBC should in any event publish the information voluntarily as a matter of legitimate public interest. Instead, the bureaucracy is showing itself up as outrageously arrogant and devious.”


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