BBC governors criticised in Panorama special

Panorama’s studio-based panel of BBC champions and critics grilled acting director general Mark Byford, right

The BBC used flagship current affairs programme Panorama to deliver some devastating insights into how viewers believe the broadcaster should be run.

The BBC used the programme as a forum for critical friends of the broadcaster to lay into the corporation and a top television executive accused the board of governors of knowing too little about journalism and the media.

In a special studio-based edition of Panorama, broadcast last Sunday and entitled What’s the Point of the BBC?, acting director general Mark Byford faced a panel of champions and critics “including those who like the idea of the BBC but dislike what it has become”, according to Newsnight anchor Gavin Esler, who fronted the show.

The panel included Peter Bazalgette, chief executive of giant independent production company Endemol, Emily Bell, editor-in-chief of Guardian Unlimited, and veteran BBC presenter and former controller of BBC Two, Sir David Attenborough.

Bazalgette criticised BBC governors and said “they had not been strong enough and competent enough” in the run-up to the Hutton report.

“We need to reform the governors from the cheerful bunch of amateurs we have now to people who know about the media, know about competition law and know about journalism, so we have a really expert group,” he said.

Advocating an independent board, Bazalgette added: “The first thing I would do is move the governors out of the BBC building, make them transparently independent, give them an independent secretariat and independent advice.”

The programme also revealed that most BBC viewers wanted the current licence fee system to be scrapped. They also criticised the BBC for not making programmes distinctive from those of its rivals.

According to an ICM survey, only 31 per cent of viewers wanted the licence fee to continue in its current form.

Another 31 per cent said the BBC should introduce advertising to its channels, while 36 per cent thought it should be funded by subscription.

The poll also revealed that 58 per cent of respondents thought BBC programmes were similar to those of other broadcasters.

Byford hit back, saying the BBC programmes differentiated themselves on similar subjects “by their ambition and by their stretch. That’s what viewers expect from the BBC, but it doesn’t mean that we must not make programmes that are the same subject matter or the same subject areas as other broadcasters,” he said

By Wale Azeez

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