Free The News: Information Commissioner’s decision on RTE/NNI FOI raises questions.

Firstly, let’s get the actual decision out of the way.
Here it is.

Information Commissioner Decision Re RTE FOI request seeking documents re NNI footage sharing

Now, lets take a few quotes out.

Firstly, the Information Commissioner’s office agrees that the number of documents RTE claims to exist is oddly low

It is noteworthy that the volume of records identified as coming within the scope of the original request is not significant and it is not entirely unreasonable, in my view, that the applicant might have expected a greater number of records to exist. I note, for example that on a number of occasions during the course of the review, the applicant referred to statements made by the Director General of RTÉ suggesting that the first of the agreements between RTÉ and individual newspaper groups was almost finalised. The applicant is clearly of the view that the Director General’s comments suggest the existence of additional records.

They’re right. I do. However,

The Act does not provide for a right of access to records which ought to exist.

OK, so while reasonable people might say that the records provided show a shocking lack of actual preparation or indeed, any substantive dealings between RTE and NNI, if that’s what RTÉ say the record is, that’s what we have to accept what it is.

So, is this the end of the whole thing?

Well, not quite. You see. Here’s the decision of RTE which I appealed to the Information Commissioner. That was merely the outcome of an internal appeal which upheld the earlier decision by RTÉ, which you can read here.

RTÉ made a decision not to release documents which they acknowledged they did hold, on the grounds of Section 20 of the FOI Act 1997 which permits a request to be refused

If the record concerns matter relating to the deliberative processes of the public body concerned

and on the grounds of Section 27 which permits refusal of

Information whose disclosure could prejudice the conduct or outcome of contractual or other negotiations of the person to whom the information relates.

They also justified invoking these sections by citing a public interest test where they simply equated what was in RTÉ’s interest with the public interest.

I appealed that decision.

Now here’s the decision the Information Commissioner’s office says they have spent the last two years making.

Whether RTE was justified in its decision to refuse access to additional records relating to a proposal to license television news reports to members of National Newspapers of Ireland and/or any other party on the grounds that no further records exist or can be found

I don’t know what that is, but it certainly isn’t the decision I appealed.

I have eight weeks to decide on an appeal to the High Court on a point of law.

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