In an excellent how-to article about investigative blogging, Unbossed makes an important observation about Freedom of Information laws:
Private entities are not covered by those laws and, thus, have no obligation to provide information. (This means that, as more public services are privatized, less information is available to the public.) However, many private entities must file reports, for example, articles of incorporation and annual reports, and those documents are public. It can also be useful to look for government reports.
In the UK, the FOIA 2000 tries to cover this problem by allowing the the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs to designate private entities as public for the purposes of FOIA. This has the effect of adding private entities to the list of more than 100,000 public entities covered by FOIA.
Melanie Phillips of the Daily Mail would like wants the British Board of Film Classification designated. Phillips wants to know why the BBFC only gave War of the Worlds a 12A rating. Whether or not you think it’s a good idea to let lots of kiddies into what you think is a scary movie, Britain’s film censors should certainly be covered.
Steve Wood has suggested that something called the the Improvement Development Agency should be subject to a Section 5 order. Probably a good idea, too.
The Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom wants the Press Complaints Commission, the media’s self-regulation body, designated as public under Section 5.
Another obvious set of candidates are the private security firms that run many prisons, detention centres, and prisoner transportation services. There is a case relevant to this in Scotland that has been bubbling since last year .
As the Unbossed article suggests, the proprietors of privatised toll roads might be suitable candidates for inclusion as well. Midland Expressway Ltd, the operators of the M6 Toll, come to mind.
Any other suggestions for Lord Falconer’s first Section 5 Order?