Sunday, 11 July 2010

Alastair Campbell, the BBC and a FOI request

In June Alastair Campbell published his latest book, 'Prelude to Power'; it was obvious to me that in the lead-up to, and just after, the publication, Campbell was appearing extensively across all BBC channels - radio, TV, national and local. Given the fact that the BBC is tasked with impartiality and, supposedly, stands apart from commercial activity, I wondered just how Campbell was being given so much exposure to promote his book. Then on 3rd June, Campbell tweeted:

I pondered on how many non-BBC employees may be left alone in this way, then read his blogpost - at this point I realised that his exposure on the BBC was far beyond what I had been aware of; in fact it was Campbell saturation of the BBC.

At this point I decided to put a Freedom of Information request in to the BBC, which I wrote as follows:

Could you please supply me with information on the number of appearances Alastair Campbell has made, and is scheduled to make, on all BBC TV and radio channels from 18th May 2010 up to, and including, the 6th June 2010.
Thank you and kind regards,
Pam Nash
I received an acknowledgement and 3 weeks later the following, as a .pdf attachment:
So the BBC are saying the information is excluded from the Act, which is no doubt factually true; but they go on to say that they're not obliged to provide this information, so won't be doing so. But why not? By paying my licence fee I am, in effect, a shareholder in the BBC - so am I not entitled to the information? I cannot imagine that collating it would take a BBC employee so long, a couple of hours, maybe?

But perhaps I am remiss in not also asking the BBC another question, in light of this Campbell tweet, which I hadn't seen when I submitted the FOI request:

'Sky not bid'? Bidding usually involves money - so did the BBC pay Campbell? Even if they didn't, can anyone remember another author having so much BBC airtime to promote their book?


Mr Campbell seems a tad upset. Oh dear!


  1. Am really surprised at Campbell's response to your post.

    Actually, I'm not.

    I thought at the time that the BBC gave him a lot of air time, and made a lot of the Question Time appearance. A mutually beneficial relationship then!

    Hope he can be arsed to give you the information and the book sales are going well ;)

  2. A Yorkshireman that supports a Lancastrian football team, does that not say everything you need to know about Alister (that is how you spell it I'm pretty sure...) "call in a few favours, and promote Public Service Broadcasting when it suits me" Campbell.

    Shameless promotion occurs all the time, usually as a deal between broadcaster/presenter/publisher/artist etc... But repeated, constant, self-publicizing on the publicly funded BBC is nothing less than you would expect from a man not entirely renowned for accuracy or honesty (or in the case of football teams, principles).

    Private Eye has a story this week about the sulking of Blair because Mandy got his book out before the memoirs of TB; did AC win the battle for first release? Wonder if the trio are still on speaking terms? The crucial point (and in the case of Mandy is unlikely given his deal with News International) is will we suddenly see Blair all over the Beeb soon? Why is the broadcaster refusing simple freedom of information requests? And what is with Campbell's reaction to the author of this blogpost? Childish, pathetic and just what you would expect from the Dodgy Dossier King.

  3. Pam - God moves in mysterious ways and so, I suspect, does Alistair Campbell.

    I saw your brief exchange of tweets with @CampbellClaret - as the old saying goes.... "(They) don't like it up 'em'

    As it happens, I have read Campbell's last book and plan to read the latest one. Can't imagine many have manged to give Alistair Campbell a hard time - but you are perfectly entitled to do so.

    Surprised he fell in to the trap of referring to you as 'Dear' - not very Nu-Labour that!.

    I will say this though - at least Campbell engages and argues - enjoy!


  4. Charon - I, too, bought, read and enjoyed 'The Blair Years......I've no argument with the quality of his writing, merely with his domination of the BBC. If his exposure on there, with the publication of his next book, is as extreme, then the BBC may as well be re-named ACBC. ;)

  5. Pam - you have to laugh though...... If Labour actually had any politicians OPPOSING government at the moment instead of doing their "Aroiund the farkin Houses in 80 Days' - the BBC might actually have more Labour people to talk to!

    Look for to Mandelson's book!

  6. For almost anybody outside of the world that Mr.Campbell inhabits, the word 'bid' is going to refer to an offer of money for an appearance. But wait a minute! Surely it does. It may not mean that the BBC and Sky are trying to outbid each other. They will no doubt both get their interview if they offer him a few quid. I suspect the one that offers most money will get him a little quicker, though. Is there a standard appearance fee?

    I'm sure Mr.Campbell has many useful contacts in the BBC and that may explain why they are so willing to assist him in selling his books.

    Hi Alastair, any chance of a signed copy of your book? Will a tenner via Paypal suffice? I can push to 20 quid if you can get Tony to sign it as well.

    Pam., i don't know what your hobbies (the ones that Mr.Campbell shows so much interest in) are, but i personally aspire to starting a hobby of playing Celebrity Scrabble. Nobody has accepted my [small handful of] invitations to play yet. I wonder if Alastair would like to be my first opponent. If i win i get a signed copy of his diaries. If he wins he gets a signed copy of my diaries. How could he not accept this invitation with a prize like that.

    Go on Alastair, it'll be fun!


  7. I'm not at all surprised by either Alastair Campbell or the BBC... both of them laughing in the faces of those who pay the rip off BBC TVLicence & for the likes of Nu Labour & their ilk, it makes me sick!!

  8. Bizarrely, the government Propaganda Channel - sorry - BBC - were slated the other day because someone (probably The Ellie) moaned that they did a "biased" interview of someone of the Labour persuasion.

    As in they managed to be almost impartial, which is their job.

    I don't know much about Alistair Claret, apart from he doesn't apparently know where the retweet button is located, so I haven't got any idea how he managed to elevate the wrecker of civilisation and peace envoy known as Tony B. Liar to the top of the stairs, let alone the dizzy height of country fuckdom.

  9. Why do you have such a hard-on for Campbell?

    They covered the book on Katie Price and Peter Andre like it was actual news. Did you hound them about that?

  10. Timbo:

    Hard-on? I'm a female. Still, if you're a Campbell fan you clearly would never let a fact get in the way of a good insult.

    As for Katie Price and Peter Andre - I see where you're coming from there, they do bear comparison with Campbell in that all 3 are media whores. Price/Andre were never operational at the very heart of Govt, although they would probably have been more truthful and up-front than Campbell. Which is saying something............

  11. Paying your licence fee makes you a customer, not a 'shareholder'.

    As odious as he is, I'm with Campbell on this one. You're letting your hatred for him stand in the way of the facts.

  12. Good on you Pam. He is a bully, dressing it up as cheek or condescension, and it won't do. The BBC o should really stand up to those that ingratiate themselves, given they know these tactics so well. You 'outed' him.