MPs propose mutualisation plan for Licence Fee payers to own the BBC

The BBC should be mutualised with television licence holders electing the board holding BBC bosses to account, according to a pair of MPs.

In a letter to The Times newspaper, Gareth Thomas (pictured), Labour MP for Harrow West and Conservative MP for Wycombe Steve Baker have outlined the proposal which they say will remedy the current shortcomings of BBC governance.

 “The BBC Trust is accountable to no one, really,” say the MPs.

“For the BBC to succeed it must have a governance structure that is fit for purpose. Yet it is plagued by two problems which none of the options under consideration by ministers and the culture select committee will fix: an ownership deficit and an accountability gap.”

Speculation has been rife as to what system will replace the current BBC Trust model, which has been under fire in light of the Jimmy Saville and Lord McAlpine scandals, as well as outrage at excessive salaries and severance payments to BBC employees.

A key report, carried out by David Clementi, a former chairman of Prudential, which forms part of the government’s review of the BBC’s royal charter, said the principle of the BBC governing itself through the BBC Trust is no longer feasible.

The report said it should be replaced by a unitary board, half of whose members should be appointed by the government, which should oversee the responsibility for the interests of licence fee payers on  a day-to-day basis while Ofcom should be given regulatory oversight.

But the MPs argue such a system would not fix “an ownership deficit and an accountability gap” which undermines BBC governance.

The MPs believes a more radical and effective solution would be for the BBC to be mutualised, which they argue will “lend new legitimacy” to the corporation

A mutual has members who collectively own the business as well as being its customers, as opposed to being outside investors.

The MPs said: “This would mean TV licence holders becoming members and owners of the BBC, thus solving the ownership deficit. These members would elect representatives to hold the executive management to account.

“Thorny issues such as executive remuneration and tough decisions about the prioritisation of constrained resources would be decided at an open AGM open too all to attend in person or online.

“This would solve the accountability gap and would be a powerful bulwark against political interference.”

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