Free The News: RTE refuse my FOI request, again, on appeal

My appeal of the decision to turn down my FOI request for documents relating to RTE’s offer to licence video to members of the National Newspapers of Ireland has now been decided.

As you can see below, the original decision has been upheld by RTE’s internal appeal process. It is now open to me to send a final appeal on to the Office of the Information Commissioner.

RTE Reference: FOI2011/51
Your Reference: Mc673.RMcM.DB

Dear Mr. McMahon
In response to your letter of 12 August requesting an internal review of the decision made in this matter, I wish to inform you tha I have decided to uphold the decision made by Peter Feeney and given to you by letter on 19 July.

The records examined for the purpose of this internal review fall into four categories. Firstly, there is RTE’s PowerPoint format proposal as presented to N.N.I (National Newspapers of Ireland) entitled RTE Offer to Share News Clips with NNI Members. Secondly there are internal RTE papers relating to the development of this proposal. These comprise research including measures of traffic to the RTE.ie website, extracts from COMSCORE data about traffic to a number of websites, and estimates of costs of various options for the delivery of video feeds to newspapers. Thirdly, there are email records of correspondence initiation contacts and arranging meetings between RTE and N.N.I members. These emails bear dates in April, May, June and July of this year. Finally, internal RTE emails relate to aspects of the proposal including drafts of technical points for inclusion in the presentation mentioned above, assessments of the extent of interest being likely to be shown by N.N.I members, and diary entries for meetings between RTE and NNI.

Having considered these records and bearing in mind that the proposal made by RTE remains in discussion with N.N.I., I judge that Peter Feeney was correct to rest his decision on the exemptions provided for in sections 20 and 27 of the Act and I agree with the manner in which he has applied the public interest test in this instance. Accordingly, I confirm his decision.

I note that Peter Feeney has already advised you of the course you may take in the event that you find the outcome of my review unacceptable. I am not in a position to waive the fee for this internal review, as suggested in your letter of 12 August.

Yours sincerely,

Adrian Moynes

I will be asking my solicitor to appeal this decision. The grounds will include;

I will point out that the most important issue to be decided is a clear statement that RTE’s commercial interest is not the same thing as the public interest, just because RTE conflates the two. The potential of a breach of EU Law competition law discussed previously may even mean the public interest decidedly lies in getting full picture of deal in the public domain before contracts are signed.

Any potentially commercially sensitive details (pricing, licencing on offer) have been released into public domain already. Also, the matter cannot have a commercial sensitivity to RTE when they are not intending to charge any fee whatsoever for access to the video footage.

A claim that a deliberative process is ongoing in RTE is not bourne out even by the facts as outlined in the correspondence from RTE itself. The offer has been made already to the NNI. They may be considering it, but RTE’s decisions have already been made.  There aren’t even any emails listed as having been exchanged or created since July of this year.

I’ll let you know how we get on.

RTE Letter Re Free News Offer 8th Sept 2011

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