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Here’s how to reform the BBC following Patten exit

The BBC occupies such a pivotal place in British life – and it’s a growing force worldwide too – that whoever’s in charge is important for other media organisations too. Marketers find their media options defined, at least in part, by what the BBC does and agencies have done rather well out of the Beeb in recent years, winning lucrative assignments even though you’d expect the BBC to possess enough creative resources to plug its own programmes.

Unknown-4With Lord Patten (left) stepping down as chairman of the BBC Trust – a sort of non-executive board – there’s bound to be discussion over whether a new structure is required.

The BBC’s licence fee, which garners over £3bn in revenue – although the BBC always maintains it’s hard-up – is up for renewal in 2017 too. In an age when lots of people watch TV programmes on gadgets rather than TVs, there are obvious question marks over how appropriate this method of funding still is.

The BBC last functioned well with the old London Weekend Television duo of Christopher Bland, chairman of what was then the board of governors, and Greg Dyke, director general, in charge. But Bland stepped down which left Dyke, some time later, to be thrown to the New Labour wolves following Andrew Gilligan’s on-air remark that the Government had ‘sexed up’ a dossier recommending war with Iraq. As it happens it did, and the BBC suffered along with countless Iraqis and numerous British servicemen and women.

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Since then the Beeb has been running scared and so a new structure is required which would give the organisation more confidence and ability to stand up to bullying politicians. A new management line-up might also be able to put in place the systems to curb the BBC’s profligate expenditure (in some areas) and restore its reputation after the Jimmy Savile scandal.

Actually it’s got some key people already. If it moves towards a unitary PLC-type structure, which it surely must, then current director general Tony Hall would make a good chairman and BBC World boss Tim Davie, a former Pepsi executive but never mind, is well-equippped to be CEO. If it was really clever it would bring back ITV programme boss Peter Fincham (he lost his job as BBC1 controller over a ridiculous farrago involving a programme about the Queen).

It would then appoint two non-execs, representing both the main political parties. Labour is stuffed full of media types and in the Lords the Tories have my old friend Baroness Wheatcroft (former Times City editor and Sunday Telegraph editor Patience Wheatcroft) who is just the gel to knock these media luvvies into shape.

There you are: job done. Will it happen? Alas, probably not.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.
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