Panorama/BIJ: data journalism is scoopy

Delighted to say that last night’s BBC TV Panorama on top public service salaries has caused plenty of ripples. The programme was a co-production with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, based at City University. (Declaration of interest: I’m a BIJ trustee). The programme can be seen for six days here, some of the coverage is here and here and commentary here.

There will be more high-profile work from the BIJ before long, but  this is probably the largest stone this new outfit has yet thrown in the pond. Its journalists only began work at the start of this year. Investigative reporting is never quick. The raw material for this inquiry is 38,000 lines of data and it was obtained by 2,400 freedom of information requests.

Much of the coverage has focussed on the BBC salaries – and it must have required some nerve for Panorama to have devoted so much airtime to yet more detail of how much top people at the Beeb earn. But the really interesting stuff seems to me to lie not with the outliers at the top, but with the mass in the middle. Leaving the special case of the BBC aside, does the public service really need thosee thousands of salaries lying somewhere between £100,ooo and £300,000? It’s hard to imagine that a ruthless audit would give them all a value-for-money clearance.

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