Tories to replace BBC Trust with 'licence fee payers' trust'

A Conservative government would create a “licence fee payers’ trust” in place of the BBC Trust leading to the early departure of its chairman, Sir Michael Lyons – according to a report.

The Tory party would “act swiftly” to introduce a new body, answerable to licence fee payers, and create a new post of non-executive chairman to work alongside Mark Thompson, the director general, a senior party source told The Times.

The party believes changes could be carried out within the boundaries of the BBC’s royal charter and would give Thompson a “cheerleading chairman” and allow the new body to more effectively conduct a key role of representing the interests of those who pay £142.50 a year for the BBC’s services.

One senior Tory MP said: “We believe that these measures will lead to a change in the culture of the corporation’s governance, which will allow the trust to focus on holding the executive to account on behalf of licence fee payers.”

Any new structure is likely to speed up the departure of Lyons who has chaired the BBC Trust since soon after its creation in January 2007, the report claimed.

It states: “Conservative sources were adamant that the party would not try to force the chairman out, one senior MP told The Times that Sir Michael, whose term of office expires in April 2011, had intimated to the party that he would step down rather than face a fight with a newly elected government.”

A spokesman for the BBC Trust refused to confirm to The Times whether Lyons would continue if the Tories won the general election ahead of the expiration of his term of office.

A BBC spokesman said: “We are not going to comment on speculation. What matters to audiences is that they receive quality content and services from the BBC. To that end the trust and Sir Michael are getting on with the job of getting the best out of the BBC for licence-fee payers.”

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