New BBC chairman refutes 'job cutter' fears

New BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons has said theat BBC staff should not fear him as a job cutter.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport announced last Thursday that Lyons, former chief executive of three city councils, would succeed Michael Grade in the position.

Union leaders have urged Lyons not to axe any more jobs at the BBC.

He said: "I don't think anybody needs to fear my appointment. I bring both experience and judgement, which is appropriate to this job."

Gerry Morrissey, general secretary of the broadcasting workers' union Bectu, said: "Obviously he hasn't got a background in broadcasting, but I don't believe that should necessarily inhibit him from doing the job.

"There are two key things [needed].

One is that he needs to demonstrate that the Trust is independent from the BBC and from the Government.

"The second is, what are the major things facing the BBC? Clearly the licence fee settlement was a huge disappointment to everyone inside the BBC, and therefore I'm aware that the Trust will be looking at how best to balance the books for the next four years.

"From Bectu's point of view, we think they should continue to invest in quality programmes."

Lyons' brief background in broadcasting included a role as a former nonexecutive director of Central Television (2003-2006), and until recently he was chairman of the Regional Advisory Council for ITV.

Lyons has come under repeated criticism for his "close relationship" with Gordon Brown, but he denied accusations of cronyism. Lyons said: "One or two people have suggested that I'm very close to the Chancellor. It's certainly true that he's asked me to do three jobs which were very difficult. I did them to the best of my ability.

"But that's where it begins and ends.

I worked for him and enjoyed that work. I'm coming to a different role now and will deliver absolute independence and impartiality."

Adrian Monck, head of journalism at City University, said that it will be interesting to see how Lyons' role compares to that of Michael Grade.

He said: "I think the trust is a sort of fudge set up by Michael Grade to get the BBC through a bad period.

"A lot of what he did was going around tickling people's tummies and making them feel good about the BBC after a nasty time when everyone felt really badly about it because of the Hutton Inquiry.

"It will be interesting to see, this new guy is coming in with very different experience. He's not a feelgood appointment. He's a number cruncher, an administrator, and the kind of person to do the sort of regulatory job the Government perceives needs to be done with the BBC.

"He might also have some useful suggestions on cost-cutting that he can pass on to Mark Thompson."

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