Response from Ofcom To FOI Regarding Compliance with the Equality Act in relation to Election Guidelines
1) The expenditure constraints on Freedom of Information (£450), are ludicrous and undemocratic given the seriousness of the Freedom of Information Act; Freedom of Information, unless it takes too much time to uncover the information (my request would take 18 hours which exceeds the £450 allotted to each request). Such restrictions are patently absurd and a mockery of the entire notion of Freedom of Information.
2) An IMPORTANT FINDING IS THAT OFCOM HELD NO MEETINGS REGARDING THE EQUALITY ACT 2010 & THE 2011 SUPPLEMENTS FOR BROADCASTERS IN RELATION TO THE ELECTION GUIDELINES FOR 2015.
3) It is also significant that they claim to be only involved in deciding “party election broadcasts” – so WHY DID THEY CLAIM TO HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO INITIALLY EXCLUDE THE GREENS FROM THE DEBATES? According to this response, THEY NEVER HAD ANY AUTHORITY IN THIS MATTER. Is it a coincidence that Cameron used this exclusion of the Greens as a political stunt the next day?
Ofcom answers in bold.
Freedom of Information: Right to know request
Dear Dr Luchte
Thank you for your request for information concerning the Equality Act and Ofcom’s Election Guidelines which Ofcom received on 22 January 2015 and has considered under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act). I have set out your questions and our answers in turn below, but first I would like to just clarify Ofcom’s position and powers regarding elections. Ofcom has no role in determining the structure, format and style of any broadcast general election debates that might take place. This is up to broadcasters. Ofcom’s role is to set rules governing the minimum allocation of party election broadcasts, a duty places on Ofcom by parliament. The broadcasters are able to allocate additional party election broadcasts, to major parties and others, and have a duty to ensure all coverage is fair, impartial and gives due weight to a range of voices.
1 – In my first request, I ask you to provide copies of the all communications and documents whether electronic or otherwise which pertain to OFCOM’s steps to comply with the Equality Act 2010 and its 2011 Supplements for Broadcasters: 2011 Statutory Instruments (No. 2260), Special Duties, and Regulations of the Act.
Ofcom is committed to treating all people as equitably and fairly as possible. In 2014 we published our Single Equality Scheme. This sets out the measures we have and intend to put in place, to ensure that we are a responsible and diverse employer and regulator.
A considerable amount of time would be needed to locate, retrieve, identify and extract any relevant information. Section 12 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 provides that a public authority is not obliged to comply with a request for information if the authority estimates that the cost of complying with the request would exceed the “appropriate limit”. The appropriate limit is set out in the Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004, and is, for Ofcom, £450. That sum is intended to cover the estimated costs involved in determining whether Ofcom holds the information requested, identifying, locating, retrieving and extracting the information from any document containing it. The Regulations provide that costs are to be estimated at a rate of £25 per person per hour.
Ofcom estimates that it would take more than 18 hours to identify, locate and extract the information you require and as such the cost of complying with your request will exceed the appropriate limit. We will therefore not be able to provide any information in connection to your request.
2 – In my second request, I ask you to provide a list of meetings, participants, and minutes thereof which related, in any manner, to the Equality Act 2010 and its 2011 Supplements for Broadcasters: 2011 Statutory Instruments (No. 2260), Special Duties, and Regulations of the Act.
Please see my response to question1.
3 – In my third request, I ask you to provide copies of whatever notes or minutes were taken of any occasions in which OFCOM discussed and made efforts to bring the Election Guidelines of 2010 into compliance with the Equality Act 2010 and its 2011 Supplements for Broadcasters: 2011 Statutory Instruments (No. 2260), Special Duties, and Regulations of the Act.
No such meetings took place.
4 – In my fourth request, I ask you to provide me with all documentation, communications, whether electronic or otherwise, which pertain to Election Guidelines per se, the Election Guidelines of 2010 as such and details of the Consultation process and all meetings and communications pertaining to the 2015 Election Guidelines.
Detailed information regarding the 2015 major parties list is available in the consultation, published on 8 January 2015. To ‘provide all documentation, communications…..’ would take a considerable amount of time and therefore Section 12 the Act applies.
Please see my answer to question 1. With regards the 2010 general election, no additional guidance was issued, over and above that contained in the Broadcasting Code.
5 – In my fifth request, I ask you to provide copies, whether electronic or otherwise, of any and all communications that OFCOM has had with the Coalition government, or agents thereof, or with members of the Civil Service, political parties (or their representatives), and broadcasters, regarding the Equality Act 2010 and its 2011 Supplements for Broadcasters: 2011 Statutory Instruments (No. 2260), Special Duties, and Regulations of the Act or with respect to the topic Election Guidelines per se.
I am writing to confirm that Ofcom has now completed its search.
No such communications exist.