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July 29, 2014updated 17 Nov 2014 4:53pm

BBC remains tight-lipped over recruitment process for 23 senior journalists – citing DPA in FOI rejection

By William Turvill

The BBC has rejected a Freedom of Information request for more details about the recruitment of 23 high-profile journalists, citing data protection.

The corporation came under fire last month when it appeared to indicate that two external recruits had been taken on through a closed process.

The appointments of ITV News's Lucy Manning and ITN's Ed Campbell came shortly before head of BBC News James Harding announced 415 jobs were to be lost across the division.

The timing was criticised by the National Union of Journalists, with national organiser of broadcast Sue Harris describing the announcement as “really, really upsetting”.

A BBC insider told Press Gazette at the time: “There is only one recruitment process that me and my colleagues know is competitive and that's a recruitment process.

"There is widespread outrage in the BBC Newsroom about the BBC's cavalier disregard of its duties to be open and fair in its recruitment. This is nothing less than cronyism."

A BBC spokesperson said: "We ensure we fill roles competitively using a variety of different recruitment methods. On occasion, on-air reporters or other key editorial staff have been recruited in a different way, but always within the proper recruitment process."

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Press Gazette received the same response when asking about the recruitment of more than 20 other staff members and filed a Freedom of Information request saying: “Could you please provide me with detail on how the following BBC employees were recruited. Have their current positions (which have all been taken up over 2013 and 2014, I believe) been formally advertised for? And have they had to go through a formal interview process? If not, please provide details of how the employees were recruited and who made the final decision to hire them. Please also provide the salary (or salary band) each employee receives.”

The journalists, and their new positions, asked about are (internal moves asterisked):

  • Nick Hopkins (investigations correspondent, Newsnight)
  • Duncan Weldon (economics correspondent, Newsnight)
  • Keith Blackmore (managing editor, BBC News)
  • Laura Kuennsberg (presenter and chief correspondent, Newsnight)
  • Robert Peston (economics editor)*
  • Mishal Husain (presenter, Today)*
  • Paul Royall (editor, BBC News at Six and Ten)*
  • Ian Katz (editor, Newsnight)
  • Ceri Thomas (acting editor, Panorama)*
  • Jon Sopel (North American editor)*
  • Mark Mardell (presenter, The World This Weekend and The World at One)*
  • Kayta Adler (Europe editor), Ian Pannell (international correspondent)*
  • Mark Wray (head of BBC College of Journalism)*
  • Penny Marshall (education editor)
  • Hugh Pym (health editor)*
  • John Mullin (Scottish referendum editor) – Press Gazette now understands Mullin was taken on after a competitive recruitment process
  • Jim Gray (head of BBC TV current affairs and deputy to the head of news programmes)
  • Helen Boaden (director, BBC Radio)* 
  • Peter Rippon (editor, BBC Online Archive)*
  • James Harding (director of news and current affairs)
  • Lucy Manning (special correspondent)
  • Ed Campbell (editor, special correspondents)

The BBC responded: “We ensure we fill roles competitively using a variety of different recruitment methods. On occasion, on-air reporters or other key editorial staff have been recruited for in a different way, but always within the proper recruitment process.

“We are withholding information on the recruitment processes that the individuals list were subject to, under section 40(2) (personal information) of the Act. Under section 40(2) of the Act, personal information about identifiable living individuals is exempt if disclosure to a third party would breach one or more principles in the Data Protection Act 1998. The individuals concerned would not expect their employment/salary data to be disclosed to a third party. To do so would be unfair; therefore, disclosure would breach the First Data Protection Principle (fair and lawful processing).”

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