Freedom of Information Act, 1997|
The Freedom of Information Act (FOI), 1997, establishes three new statutory rights:
The Act asserts the right of members of the public to obtain access to official information to the greatest extent possible consistent with the public interest and the right to privacy of individuals.
This reference book has been prepared and published in accordance with the requirements set out in Section 15 and Section 16 of the FOI Act. Its purpose is to facilitate access to official information held by the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (formerly the IRTC) by outlining its structure and functions; details of the services it provides and how they may be availed of; information on the classes of records it holds; details of the rules, procedures, practices, guidelines and interpretations used by the Commission for the purpose of certain decisions, determinations and recommendations and information on how to make a request to the Commission under the Freedom of Information Act, 1997.
Routinely Available Information
The Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) currently makes information routinely available to the public in relation to its functions, activities and schemes. Such information will continue to be available informally without the need to use the Freedom of Information Act, 1997. This reference book highlights, in relation to each of the Commission’s activities, where information of this nature is available.
The Freedom of Information Act, 1997, is designed to allow public access to information held by public bodies, which is not routinely available through other sources. Access to the information under the Act is subject to certain exemptions and involves specific procedures and time limits. This reference book provides a guide to the structure of the Commission so as to assist you in accessing information under the Freedom of Information of Act, 1997.
Requirements of Section 15 and 16 of the FOI Act, 1997
Section 15 of the Freedom of Information Act, 1997, requires the publication of data regarding the Commission’s functions and information held by it. These are set out in Part II of this reference book.
Section 16 of the Freedom of Information Act, 1997, requires the publication of information regarding rules and practices in relation to certain decisions by public bodies. These are set out in Part III of this reference book, which sets out the rules, procedures, practices, guidelines, interpretations and precedents used for the purpose of decisions, determinations or recommendations under the schemes operated by this Commission.
The Commission undertakes to use its best endeavours to hold confidential any information provided to it in confidence, subject to the Commission’s obligations under law, including the Freedom of Information Act, 1997, which comes into force on 21st October, 2000. Any person wishing that any of the information supplied to this Commission should not be disclosed because of its sensitivity, should, when providing the information, identify the same and specify reasons for its sensitivity. The Commission will consult about this sensitive information before making a decision on any Freedom of Information request received.
Part I: Access to Information
1.1 Applications under the Act
Under the FOI Act, anyone is entitled to apply for access to information not otherwise publicly available. Each person has a right of:
The following records come within the scope of the Act:
The Commission is obliged to respond to a request within 4 weeks.
Applications for information under the FOI Act should be addressed to:
Tel: (01) 676 0966 Fax (01) 676 0948
Applications should be in writing and should indicate that the information is sought under the Freedom of Information Act. If information is desired in a particular form i.e. photocopy, computer disk etc. this should also be specified in your application. Please give as much detail as possible to enable the staff of the Commission to identify the record. If you have difficulty in identifying the precise records that you require, the staff of the Commission will be happy to assist you in preparing the request. You may be required to prove your identity, especially when seeking personal information, so you may, therefore, be asked to produce your Birth Certificate, Driving Licence, Passport or other form of identity. Please include a day time telephone number so that you may be contacted if it is necessary to clarify details of your request.
1.2 Rights of Review and Appeal:
The FOI Act sets out a series of exemptions to protect sensitive information where its disclosure may damage key interests of the State or of third parties. Where the Commission invokes these provisions to withhold information, the decision may be appealed. Decisions in relation to deferral of access, charges, forms of access etc. may also be the subject of appeal. Details of the appeals mechanisms are as follows:
1.2.1 Internal Review: You may seek internal review of the initial decision, which will be carried out by an official at a higher level if:
Requests for internal review should be submitted in writing to:
FOI Internal Reviewer,
Tel: (01) 676 0966 Fax: (01) 676 0948
Such a request for internal review must be submitted within 4 weeks of the initial decision. The Commission must complete the review within 3 weeks. Internal review must normally be completed before an appeal may be made to the Information Commissioner.
1.2.2 Review by the Commissioner: Following completion of internal review, you may seek independent review of the decision from the Information Commissioner. Also, if you have not received a reply to your application for internal review within 3 weeks, this is deemed to be a refusal and you may appeal the matter to the Commissioner.
Appeals in writing may be made directly to the Information Commissioner at the following address:
Office of the Information Commissioner,
Tel: (01) 678 5222 Fax: (01) 661 0570
Pursuant to Section 47 of the Freedom of Information Act, 1997, fees may be charged as follows:
A deposit may be payable where the total fee is likely to exceed €50. In these circumstances, the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland must, if requested, assist the member of the public to amend the request so as to reduce or eliminate the amount of the deposit.
Charges may be waived in the following circumstances:
The Commission will adhere to any guidelines set out by the Department of Finance in relation to the charging of fees. For further information please contact:
Freedom of Information Officer,
From 7 July 2003, the standard fee payable for each request is €15.
A fee of €75 must accompany an application for an internal review.
A fee of €150 must accompany an application to the Information Commissioner.
Part II: Functions & Records – Section 15
2.1 Description and Functions
The Broadcasting Act 2001, effective from September 1st 2001, resulted in the change of name for the Independent Radio and Television Commission to the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI), and more importantly, has enhanced the role of the Commission in a number of areas.
The original functions of the Commission as laid down in the Radio and Television Act 1988 include:
With the enactment of the Broadcasting Act 2001 additional functions of the Commission include:
Information on the timeframe for the implementation for all these activities will be made available during Summer/Autumn 2002.
Copies of the Radio and Television Act 1988 and the Broadcasting Act 2001 are available from the
2.2 Organisational Structure of the BCI
The structure of the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland consists of (a) the Board and (b) the Executive.
The Board of the Commission is a part-time body of nine members and a chairperson. The current Board was appointed in October 1998 by the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands for a term of five years and they are:
Conor J. Maguire, Chairperson Senior Counsel.
Olive Braiden Member, Human Rights Commission
Joe Griffin Director, Ashfield College
Caimin Jones Media & Public Relations Consultant
Vivienne Jupp Senior Partner, Andersen Consulting
Colum Kenny Senior Lecturer in Communications at DCU
Mary Kerrigan Journalist and Barrister.
Frank Masterson Chartered Accountant and Financial Consultant.
Lenore Mrkwicka Deputy General Secretary, Irish Nurses’ Organisation.
John O’Brennan Chairman, Dublin South Community Radio National President, Credit Union Managers Institute.
Sub-Committees of the Board
The statutory responsibilities of the Commission are set out in the Radio and Television Act, 1988 and the Broadcasting Act 2001. The Board makes all major policy decisions and awards broadcasting licences. It determines policy for the organisation and, in consultation with senior executive staff, develops structures and procedures to assist in the implementation of policy decisions.
Currently, the Commission has an executive