BBC libel fees almost £1 m since start of 2008

News that the BBC has paid out almost £1 million in costs and damages for libel from current affairs programmes in 2 years has shocked the Sunday Express. Not me.

The BBC received 71 complaints about libel since January 2008 and spent £121,000 on lawyers to defend itself, says the Sunday Express.

Consider just one fact about the output of the BBC: over 78,000 radio hours in its past financial year over 10 radio networks. And it has 8 tv networks also pumping out hours of viewing.

Current affairs is a central part of the BBC. The BBC spends £4.5 billion on operating expenditure, putting out those radio and TV hours, putting up the websites and all the support needed to do that.

For which it has to pay out, under our libel laws, just £1 million in nearly 2 years. Well worth it for a public broadcaster.

Unless you think a public broadcaster should not libel anybody. That’s not at all possible for a current affairs remit.

And unless you think a public broadcaster should not compete with the private sector. That, I suspect, is the root of this Sunday Express story.

But well done to the Sunday Express for using the Freedom of Information Act to get this information. All public bodies should be open to public scrutiny using this legislation.

Pity that private operations which as Richard Desmond’s empire are not so open.

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