Bureau of Investigative Journalism

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Bureau of Investigative Journalism
Founded April 2010
Type Nonprofit
Focus Investigative Journalism
Key people
Rachel Oldroyd, Managing Editor
Ted Jeory, Deputy Editor
Website thebureauinvestigates.com

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) is a nonprofit news organisation based in London. It was founded in 2010 to pursue investigations it deems to be in the public interest, funded through philanthropy.[1] Though the bureau self-publishes on its own website, the body typically acts more like a news agency, working in collaboration with partner organisations to distribute stories.[2] Since its founding it has collaborated with Newsnight, Panorama and File on 4 at the BBC, Channel 4 News and Dispatches, as well as the Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph, and The Sunday Times, among others.[3] Its managing editor is Rachel Oldroyd.[4]

However, the BoIJ has been under intense scrutiny in the last few years following the BBC Newsnight Scandal and allegations of left-wing bias.[5]


The Bureau was established in 2010 by former Sunday Times reporter Elaine Potter, who worked on exposing the Thalidomide scandal, and her husband David Potter, who founded software company Psion. Elaine cites one of her inspirations being the creation two years previous of ProPublica, a nonprofit organisation based in New York with a similar remit, also funded philanthropically.[6]

Initial funding for the project came from the Potters' charitable foundation, who committed £2 million.[7] Iain Overton was appointed its first Managing Editor.[8]

Media commentator Roy Greenslade reported that "The creation of the bureau stems from a belief that papers are either unable or unwilling to carry out investigative journalism."[9]

In its first year - 2010/2011 - the Bureau won an Amnesty Media Award,[10] a Thomson Reuters Award[11] and was shortlisted for an IRE award[12] and a Foreign Press Association[13] Award for its reporting.

On 10 November 2012 the BBC suspended all Bureau co-productions following a secondment of its lead reporter Angus Stickler to Newsnight. The BBC then falsely reported that a senior Conservative of the Thatcher era was guilty of child abuse.[14] In the wake of this, on 12 November 2012, Iain Overton resigned as Editor.

Former Sunday Times Insight editor Christopher Hird was named as the new editor of The Bureau of Investigative Journalism on 6 December 2012.[15]


Following its official launch in April 2010, the Bureau produced a range of stories that fitted within the organisation's four pillars of investigation: human rights, open society, health and corporate corruption.

World Health Organization[edit]

The first report produced by the Bureau with the British Medical Journal in June 2010 focused on the World Health Organisation's (WHO) 2004 influenza pandemic guidelines. Broadcast on Al Jazeera (English), the story revealed how the three main scientists recommending the stockpiling of Tamiflu to the WHO were on the payroll of Roche, the antiviral's pharmaceutical manufacturer. In light of the report, the WHO committed to reviewing its conflict of interest procedures, and demands for an inquiry were made in the European Parliament.[16]

United States covert war[edit]

[neutrality is disputed]

In July 2011 the Bureau published the first in a series of major reports examining aspects of the US covert war on terror, by challenging a US claim that no civilians had been killed in CIA drone strikes in Pakistan since mid-2010. Since then the Bureau has published a number of major reports, including its full, searchable database of all known drone strikes.[17][irrelevant citation]

Deaths in police custody[edit]

The Bureau's study of Deaths in Police Custody found that over 11 years, 333 people died in the UK in police custody, yet not one single police officer had been charged.[18]

Election expenses[edit]

[neutrality is disputed]

In July the Bureau worked with British-based Channel 4 News to highlight possible manipulations of UK general election expenses by prospective Members of Parliament. Aired over two successive weeks, the reports pinpointed numerous cases of possible breaches of Electoral Commission guidelines by several MPs, predominantly by shifting the cost of promotional materials from one campaign account to another.[19] The investigation focused in particular on Richmond Park's Conservative Party MP, Zac Goldsmith.[why?] Alleged inconsistencies put forward by the BoIJ in his campaign team's accounting of expenses led to an investigation by the Electoral Commission which decided there was no case to answer.[20] Other inquiries were undertaken by the Commission as a result of the Bureau/Channel 4 report, notably into the campaign expenses of government minister Sarah Teather. However, the Commission found no evidence of impropriety.[21][irrelevant citation]

Public pay[edit]

In September the Bureau unveiled the largest single database on senior public sector salaries ever produced. The culmination of an exhaustive eight-month data and Freedom of Information trawl, over 38,000 public sector jobs paying over £100,000 per year were listed. An episode of BBC’s flagship current affairs programme, Panorama, was produced as a result of the investigation[22] and an exclusive, searchable database of senior pay packets was placed on the BBC News website.[23]

Iraq war logs[edit]

In October 2010 the Bureau produced two television reports on the occupation of Iraq between 2004-2009 after access to an unprecedented 400,000 US "significant action" reports was given by whistleblower's website Wikileaks. As the broadcasting arm of the uniquely collaborative project, the Bureau produced a major news special for Al Jazeera in both Arabic and English, and an hour-long documentary for Channel 4’s main current affairs show, Dispatches. The Bureau also produced an exclusive and dedicated war log website.[24]

European Union structural funds[edit]

In December, the Bureau and London’s Financial Times (FT) together published the only database tracking the EU’s Structural Funds produced to date, providing a transparent view into how the €347bn resource is used. In a series of FT articles spanning five days, a range of systemic flaws, misuses and scams were revealed, including how the Italian mafia have learnt how to exploit the system for their own gain. Programmes for BBC Radio’s File on Four[25] and Al Jazeera’s People and Power were also produced. The team won the annual UACES Thomson Reuters Reporting Europe Prize their BBC Radio 4 programme ‘File on 4: Europe’s Missing Millions’ which aired on 30 November 2010.[26]

Conservative Party funding[edit]

[neutrality is disputed]

In 2011 the Bureau began investigating the funding of the British Conservative Party. It found that 50 per cent of donations came from the financial services sector, with such funding totalling £47.76 million since 2005.[citation needed] In addition, 57 individuals from the financial services sector were found to have donated 50,000 GBP each to the Tory party, entitling them to membership of the Leader's Club, which includes such privileges as access to Prime Minister David Cameron and other senior figures. [27]

Lobbying's hidden Influence[edit]

[neutrality is disputed]

Bell Pottinger, one of the leading PR firms in the UK, were the centre of a Bureau-led covert filming operation. In it undercover journalists filmed Bell Pottinger executives declaring that they can fix meetings between pariah states and senior Tory government officials, if the price is right. The extent of their 'dirty tricks' (as the PR execs themselves described them) extended to online changes of things such as Wikipedia. [28]

United States drone tactics[edit]

In 2012, the Bureau released a report documenting that U.S. drones had targeted rescuers and funerals.[29][irrelevant citation]

Left-Wing Praise[edit]

In November 2012, an Early Day Motion was presented in the British Parliament by eight Labour MP's that supported the stories reported at the Bureau under Iain Overton's editorship. The motion, sponsored by Labour MP Paul Flynn, read:

That this House recalls the great successes of The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) in its quality work on exposing many national and international scandals, including revealing that the CIA falsely claimed that it was causing zero civilian casualties in drone attacks in Pakistan and confirming that the US had deliberately targeted rescuers in follow-up strikes; applauds The Bureau's work on deaths in police custody that was rewarded with a 2012 Amnesty International Media Award and revealed that high-profile deaths in police custody had not been included in official statistics and that police continue to use restraint techniques that have long been known to be dangerous; further notes that The Bureau investigated the under-spend of European structural funds, reported in detail the misuse of House of Lords facilities and failure of peers to declare their interests, exposed the power and influence of the financial lobby and conducted a valuable investigation of the public relations and lobbying industries; regrets the reduction in spending on investigative journalism by the BBC; and congratulates TBIJ for providing a valuable service in issues neglected by the main broadcasters.[30]


Since it launched the Bureau has secured over 47 front-page stories and has produced a number of award-winning web, radio and TV reports. These include winning the Amnesty International Digital Awards two years running, firstly for an investigation into the Iraq War Logs[10] and latterly for work on Deaths in Police Custody.[31]

In 2011 the Bureau won the Thomson Reuters reporting Europe Award for a BBC Radio 4 programme on Europe’s Missing Millions, and the investigation into drone warfare was shortlisted for the Foreign Press Association Awards.

In 2012 the Bureau and its journalists have been shortlisted in four categories at the first Press Gazette British Journalism Awards, which emphasise journalism in the public interest. The Bureau’s Chris Woods was up for Investigation of the year for his work on drone warfare. Nick Mathiason was short listed for the Business journalist of the year award for his work on the financial lobby. The Bureau as an entity was up for an award for an Innovation of the year.[1]

Emma Slater’s raft of work earned her a place as the New journalist of the year award. [2].


British-based blogger "Guido Fawkes" has accused TBIJ of inaccuracies and left-wing bias in its reporting.[32] Guido Fawkes stated that the Bureau was wrong to claim that Tory party funder David Rowland was a City financier. Instead, the blogger said Rowland was a 'property developer'.

Newsnight scandal[edit]

On Friday 10 November 2012 the BBC suspended all co-productions with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism following a TBIJ - Newsnight co-production, led by the Bureau's chief reporter Angus Stickler, falsely implicating Lord McAlpine of child abuse.[14] The scandal over the report's inaccuracy, combined with other factors, led to the resignation of the BBC Director General, George Entwistle.[33]

On 12 November 2012, Overton resigned from his position as Editor at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism after he sent a Tweet throwing forward to the story. James Lee, Chair of the Trustees of the Bureau, commented at the time: "The Bureau was launched and built up under Iain’s editorship. Iain has played a pivotal role in the Bureau’s success to date. Under his editorship the Bureau has gained a reputation for quality journalism as well as winning awards. His resignation is a real tragedy."[34]

The Trust of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reviewed the events leading up to the report and concluded that the story had come from the BBC and was made entirely within the BBC: "The Bureau was not itself directly responsible for the content of the programme, which was at all times controlled, edited and lawyered by the BBC."[35]


  1. ^ "Journalism bureau opens for business with seven investigations on the go", The Guardian, 27 April 2010. Accessed 26 September 2015.
  2. ^ "About the Bureau", The Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Accessed 20 April 2015.
  3. ^ "Profile: Bureau of Investigative Journalism", BBC News, 12th November 2012. Accessed 20th April 2015.
  4. ^ "Trustees appoint new Managing Editor", The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 23rd October 2014. Accessed 20th April 2015.
  5. ^ Robinson, Martin (12 November 2012). "Adviser to Leveson press inquiry is a trustee of the self-styled investigative bureau behind McAlpine Newsnight fiasco". The Daily Mail. Retrieved 3 October 2015. 
  6. ^ "Investigative Bureau Tries to Make Up for British News Cutbacks", The New York Times, 4 April 2010. Accessed 26 September 2015.
  7. ^ "New UK Bureau of Investigative Journalism will need £6m in funding", Journalism.co.uk, 27 April 2010. Accessed 26 September 2015.
  8. ^ "Investigative bureau appoints Overton", The Guardian, 21 September 2009. Accessed 27 April 2010.
  9. ^ Greenslade, Roy (17 July 2009). "£2m boost for independent investigative journalism bureau". The Guardian (London). Archived from the original on 2009-09-18. Retrieved 18 September 2009. 
  10. ^ a b "Amnesty announces 2011 Media Awards winners". Amnesty International UK (AIUK). May 24, 2011. Archived from the original on Jan 10, 2013. Retrieved January 10, 2013. 
  11. ^ "2011 Winner Gail Champion and Angus Stickler, BBC and Bureau of Investigative Journalism File on 4: Europe’s Missing Millions (2010)". UACES reporting europe awards website. UACES. Retrieved January 15, 2013. 
  12. ^ "2010 IRE Awards winners Honoring the best in investigative journalism". IRE Website. Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc. Retrieved January 15, 2013. 
  13. ^ "TBIJ: Drone investigation shortlisted for Foreign Press Association Award" (Press release). Thomson Reuters Foundation. Nov 11, 2011. Retrieved January 15, 2013. 
  14. ^ a b BBC apologises for Newsnight child abuse report, BBC, 10 November 2012 
  15. ^ Dominic Ponsford (6 December 2012), Former Insight chief Christopher Hird made editor of The Bureau of Investigative Journalism 
  16. ^ "WHO and the pandemic flu "conspiracies"". BMJ. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  17. ^ Woods, Chris. "Why We Must Name All Drone Attack Victims". Common Dreams. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  18. ^ Angus Stickler , Dan Bell , Charlie Mole (2012-01-31). "Rate of deaths in custody is higher than officials admit - Crime - UK". London: The Independent. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  19. ^ "Questions over Zac Goldsmith's election expenses - Channel 4 News". Channel4.com. 2010-07-15. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  20. ^ "Commission concludes review into Zac Goldsmith’s election spending". electoralcommission.org.uk. 22 December 2010. 
  21. ^ (PDF). The Crown http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0014/107222/Zac-Goldsmith-Case-Summary.pdf. Retrieved 3 October 2015.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  22. ^ "BBC One - Panorama, Because We're Worth It - the Taxpayers' Rich List". Bbc.co.uk. 2010-09-30. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  23. ^ "BBC News - Public sector pay: The highest earners". Bbc.co.uk. 2010-09-20. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  24. ^ http://www.iraqwarlogs.com/[dead link]
  25. ^ "BBC Radio 4 - File on 4, Europe's Missing Millions". Bbc.co.uk. 2010-12-05. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  26. ^ "2011 | Reporting Europe Prize". Reportingeurope.eu. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  27. ^ Rajeev Syal, Jill Treanor & Nick Mathiason (Sep 30, 2011). "City's influence over Conservatives laid bare by research into donations". The Guardian (London: Guardian News and Media Limited). 
  28. ^ Burrell, Ian (Jul 26, 2012). "A victory for investigative journalism as PCC rejects complaint by Bell Pottinger against The Independent". The Independent (London). 
  29. ^ "Obama terror drones: CIA tactics in Pakistan include targeting rescuers and funerals". 
  30. ^ "Early day motion 727". www.parliament.uk. 2012-11-19. Retrieved 2012-11-30. 
  31. ^ "Amnesty announces 2012 Media Awards winners" (Press release). Amnesty International UK (AIUK) press office. 30 May 2012. Archived from the original on Jan 8, 2013. 
  32. ^ "Bureau of Investigative Journalism Like Inspector Clouseau - Guy Fawkes' blog". Order-order.com. 2011-02-09. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  33. ^ David Batty and Alexis Mitchell (2012-11-10). "George Entwistle resigns as director general of the BBC | Media | guardian.co.uk". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  34. ^ "Statement from James Lee, chair of the Trustees: The Bureau of Investigative Journalism". Thebureauinvestigates.com. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  35. ^ "A statement by the Bureau’s Trustees : The Bureau of Investigative Journalism". Thebureauinvestigates.com. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 

External links[edit]