BBC spent £330,000 supressing Balen report

The BBC spent £330,000 in legal fees in preventing publication of an eight-year-old report on its Middle East coverage, according to the Commentator website.

A seven-year campaign launched by solicitor Steven Sugar finally ended earlier this year when the Supreme Court upheld the corporation’s right to keep the Balen Report under wraps.

According to the Commentator, which obtained details of the bills under the Freedom of Information Act, the cost to the BBC is “likely to be far higher, as in-house legal time is not factored in and nor is Value Added Tax”.

In 2005, Mr Sugar tried to force the BBC to release the report, produced by senior editorial consultant Malcolm Balen, under the FoI Act. When he died last year, his widow and his former firm continued the action on his behalf.

But after several court and tribunal hearings over the years, the BBC successfully argued that information relating to its journalism was exempt under the legislation.

A BBC spokesman said: “We defended this case because the report was held for the purposes of journalism and it was that principle we were protecting – the report happened to be about our Middle East coverage but could equally have been about anything else. The case has been pursued by others, forcing us to defend our position in the courts — but we’ve kept costs as low as possible in the circumstances.”

Last updated: 10:37am, August 30 2012