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Sunday, 8 September 2013

The BBC: A Broken Trust

The BBC Trust is facing the axe after the latest in a long line of embarrassing and costly blunders to have rocked the national broadcaster.

Chairman of the Trust, Lord Patten, is scheduled to appear before the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) tomorrow afternoon, when he will give further evidence on the matter of excessive severance deals at the BBC. Lord Patten first gave evidence to the PAC on 10th July, alongside current BBC Director-General Tony Hall, Director of HR Lucy Adams and Trustee Anthony Fry.

Tomorrow's meeting should prove particularly insightful as Mark Thompson, the former Director-General, has submitted written evidence directly contradicting Lord Patten's and Ms Adams' earlier claims they were kept in the dark about the true extent of the bumper pay-offs. 

In his written submission Mr Thompson bluntly told the PAC that some of the BBC Trust's earlier evidence was "fundamentally misleading about the extent of Trust knowledge and involvement". Mr Thompson's straight-talking disclosure has already prompted Ms Adams to issue a "clarification" about some of her earlier comments, which she now admits were "mistaken" in part.

Chris Heaton-Harris, a Conservative member of the PAC, told the Telegraph: "Whoever is telling the truth here, it is clear that the governance of the BBC by the Trust is broken. It has clearly failed to adequately scrutinise the way the corporation has been spending public money.

"The Trust is there to represent the licence fee payer. Any shareholder in a public company would be furious if this had been happening."

According to reports in today's Sunday Times the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is now considering plans to abolish the BBC Trust altogether and transfer its powers to communications regulator Ofcom. A senior DCMS insider is reported as saying: "It is clear the Trust, which is both a cheerleader for the BBC and its regulator, does not work. There are contradictions."

Labour PAC member Ben Bradshaw, speaking on BBC Radio 4's World at One programme, said: "(The BBC Trust) could be regulated by Ofcom and then it could have its own board which would do the job that most boards of organisations do. I think that would be a much more healthy settlement.

"The structure as it exists now prevents the BBC from defending itself properly and being effectively managed and run, but it also means that the BBC is not properly regulated."

The PAC reconvenes on the BBC executive pay-off scandal tomorrow afternoon at 3.15 pm.


Anonymous said...

Wasn't Bradshaw Culture Secretary in the last Labour Government, the one that set up the BBC Trust in the first place?

So, it's a bit of a cheek to complain about the BBC Trust's performance.

Or are we not supposed to remember all this?

admin said...

Yes, you're right - you're supposed not to remember that!