An independent review commissioned by the UK Government to look at how the BBC is governed and regulated has concluded that the current model should be replaced.
The report, which forms part of the Government’s review of the BBC’s Royal Charter, recommends that:
1/Regulatory oversight of the BBC should be passed wholly to Ofcom.
2/The BBC should have a unitary board made up with a majority of non-executive directors.
Currently there are three key groups that make up the system of governance and regulation of the BBC – the BBC Executive, the BBC Trust and Ofcom. The BBC Executive’s role is to run the day-to-day activities of the BBC, with the BBC Trust as the sovereign body of the BBC that has overall responsibility for the strategic direction of the BBC and acts as steward of the licence fee, holding the BBC Executive to account. Ofcom currently has a role as the regulator responsible for the wider broadcasting and telecommunications landscape.
Former City banker Sir David Clementi who led the review says: “Following consultation with a wide range of interested parties, and a detailed assessment of the options, I have concluded that there should be a fundamental reform of the system of governance and regulation for the BBC.
“The BBC Trust model is flawed. It conflates governance and regulatory functions within the Trust. The BBC should have a unitary Board charged with responsibility for meeting the obligations placed on it under the Royal Charter and Agreement, and responsibility for the interests of Licence Fee payers.
“Regulatory oversight should pass wholly to Ofcom, which is already the public service regulator for the UK’s broadcasting industry and has the ability to look at the BBC in the context of the market as a whole. Ofcom would be a strong regulator to match a strong BBC.”
The report also recommends that:
*The primary responsibility for the interests of the Licence Fee payers should lie with the BBC Board.
*Ofcom should issue the BBC an ‘Operating Framework’, consistent with the revised Royal Charter and Agreement, which would set out the obligations placed on the BBC.
*The Operating Framework should include ‘Operating Licences’ which would set out the BBC’s broadcasting content and distribution obligations, including services for the Devolved Nations.
*The Charter should place on the BBC a duty to consult with the public both as consumers and as Licence Fee payers.
*The BBC should have a clear ‘Broadcaster First’ system of complaints where it handles complaints in the first instance with Ofcom handling appeals on editorial issues.
After years of the BBC being treated as a political football – in part because it clings jealously to powers it shouldn’t have – this looks like a large dollop of common sense. BBC elements will moan about the greater powers of Ofcom, which didn’t do itself any favours under new boss Sharon White by fudging the recent inquiry into BT’s Openreach fibre broadband service (it decided BT could keep Openreach – whose record is dire – but should pull its socks up).
The final point above – that editorial complaints be investigated by the BBC first with appeals going to Ofcom – looks a recipe for disaster. But maybe Ofcom’s got better things to do than deal with complaints that there are too many/too few lesbians in The Archers.
That aside, this sets out sensible rules and objectives for a more manageable BBC.
In what we fervently hope is the post-Savile era, it’s time the corporation concentrated on being a world class broadcaster. If the Government allows it the money to do so, of course. But that’s another story.