The Head of the BBC has called for the Trust, which is responsible for the strategic direction of the left leaning public service broadcaster, to be scrapped.
Rona Fairhead made her speech at a media conference in Oxford where she surprised many people by backing recommendations in a Parliamentary Report that called for the abolition of the group she chairs and its replacement by a regulator, the Daily Mail reports.
Mrs Fairhead, who took over as Chairman of the BBC Trust following former EU Commissioner Chris Patten’s resignation due to ill health, said the much scrutinised broadcaster, paid for by the statutory license fee, should not be allowed to govern its own affairs.
She admitted there is currently a problem with ‘blurred accountabilities’ between bosses and the BBC Trust, and said it needed proper outside oversight, echoing concerns from MPs whose report said the trust was ‘too close to the BBC and blurs accountability…rather than it being a sharp and effective overseer’.
The comments, released last week in a report by the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, called for the trust to be replaced with a new Public Service Broadcasting Commission which would regulate strategy and spending.
The Trust’s chairman, who earned £500,000 last year for 50 days of work as part of another role at under-fire bank HSBC, also said the BBC board needed to include more non-executive directors and an independent chairman to help keep the corporation on an even footing.
“Responsibilities for strategy, financial and operational management need to sit with the BBC executive to allow them to respond to a rapidly changing environment,” she said.
“Responsibilities for regulation and broader accountability need to sit at one removed.
“That way, there should be no possibility of vagueness or uncertainty about who will be held responsible for what when the chips are down.”
She said the ‘cleanest form of separation’ would be to transfer the roles currently undertaken by the trust to an external regulator.
“That’s an approach we want to explore further. I think it’s the front-runner,” she said.
The Trust is responsible for compliance with the law and with policies and guidelines for news and programmes. But for many years now it has come under fire for being obviously partial in its reporting, particularly over subjects including climate change and what it perceives as the benefits of EU membership. Even its flagship political programme Question Time struggles to get any real sense of balance, often inviting ‘celebrities’ including pop singer Will Young onto the panel at the expense of a non establishment politician or campaigner.
Defending her numerous other roles, Mrs Fairhead said that the BBC Trust was “her priority” despite the other jobs she undertakes, something which raised eyebrows since her predecessor, Lord Patten, was accused of ‘taking his eye off the ball’ during his tenure when it emerged he was doing ten other jobs alongside his £110,000 license fee funded position.
“I was very clear when I took this role that the BBC was my priority and that I would keep under review my positions on the HSBC and PepsiCo boards,” she said.
In recent days the BBC has been under fire for a pro EU mockumentary entitled ‘The Great European Disaster Movie’ after it emerged that the broadcaster had received money from the EU to help make the film when one of the authors of the film, Bill Emmett, informed UKIP MP Mark Reckless .
The BBC has received 22 million pounds from the EU in the last 7 years though this does not appear in their public accounts. It does however appear on the Financial Transparency website of the European Commission.
One of the party’s MEPs, Steven Woolfe who covers the area which now includes ‘Media City’ said the “BBC bias in favour of the EU ‘project’ has been obvious for years.”