Resolving BBC governors' 'schizophrenic life'

By Caitlin Pike

Chairman of the BBC governors, Michael Grade, has welcomed the White Paper on the future of the BBC and said it would result in an unprecedented shake up of the BBC governance system that was long overdue.

Grade said the establishment of the BBC Trust to oversee the executive board, led by director general Mark Thompson, to run the corporation on a day-to day-basis, resolved the conundrum and conflict that governors had faced in the past.

He said: "The new BBC Trust will resolve the schizophrenic life of the governors of the BBC who at one minute have been champions of the management, at other times champions of the licence fee payer, at one time champions of the institution and at other times regulators of the institution. This really is not a structure for the modern world of broadcasting."

Grade also said that the new governance structure for the BBC would in no way threaten the independence of the Corporation from Government. "I am absolutely content that there is nothing in the White Paper draft agreement that in any way erodes or has the capacity to erode or dilute the independence of the BBC. In fact to some extent it goes further to give the new trust more powers than the present governors have particularly in developing new services or changing existing ones."

The White Paper sets out six purposes for the BBC Trust. The trust will carry out public value tests of any new public service or change to the BBC’s existing service. This will include a market impact assessment that will be overseen by a joint steering group comprising Ofcom, the BBC and possibly independent members. The trust will also develop a new fair trading policy as well as approve any commercial services operated by the BBC.

The trust will be responsible for consulting the public on key BBC policies and developments of its services. This consultation will include regular public meetings, a dedicated website and a regular survey of 10,000 licence fee payers.

The Trust is also required to develop its own "purpose remits", set out the priorities for each purpose and say how its performance will be judged. It must also produce service licences for each of the BBC’s UK public services. The licences must define the service — for example BBC 1 — and include indicators against which performance can be monitored.

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