In the July re-shuffle, John Whittingdale MP was replaced by Karen Bradley MP as Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport (CMS). Charter Renewal will now come under someone who is not known to share the former’s entrenched opinions on the BBC. However, her new deputy is Rob Wilson MP, an arch-critic of the Corporation who has compared the licence fee to a ‘poll-tax’. It has been reported that he sent some 67 complaints to the BBC between October 2012 and March 2014.
Jesse Norman MP ceased to be chairman of the Commons Select Committee for CMS when appointed a Minister in the Dept. of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy in July. He is still a member of the Committee, where Damian Collins MP is now the acting chairman.
The first report from the new committee is dated 1 August. It is the last of 3 considering the Future of the BBC in the context of charter renewal. This is perhaps the most significant pointer towards next steps for the corporation and worth reading in full, it is to be found on the select committee’s website at:
Key issues picked up by the press related to a recommendation that in future the 6pm News in Scotland should originate in Scotland, and to rescinding a proposal that the BBC Trust Chairman, Rona Fairhead, should transfer as Chairman of the proposed new unitary board without competition.
A Press Statement sets out the BBC’s reaction to the main points and is carried below in full:
The White Paper published by the Government earlier this year sets good principles that will create a robust system of governance and regulation for the BBC, and cements the financial settlement agreed last year, enabling the BBC to plan for the future.
The Select Committee’s report adds to the debate about getting the right numbers and skills on the new Board, and makes an interesting proposal on the Board’s composition.
The Committee also makes an important point about the need for clarity in the division of roles between the new BBC Board and Ofcom, the regulator. This is something that the Trust has long argued for.
We are working closely with the Government and with Ofcom to make sure the details of the new structure are right.
The CMS report makes a direct recommendation about the future structure of the Six O’Clock News programme broadcast in Scotland. We recognise this is an important topic on which many audience members have strong views and all aspects of the BBC’s performance should be open to public debate – however, it is vital that individual editorial decisions of this sort are made independently by the BBC itself, free from any political pressure or influence.
Appointment of Chairman
The Trust has always accepted that the appointment of the BBC Board Chairman, and the process by which this is done, is a matter for the Government. The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State offered Rona Fairhead the role of Chairman of the BBC until the end of her existing four-year term in 2018, and she accepted this offer. The Secretary of State gave his reasons to the House of Commons and the CMS committee, saying that the White Paper proposed major changes to the way the BBC is governed and it was important that the process ran smoothly, with the Chairman to provide continuity.
The Chairman underwent a rigorous and open public appointment process before being appointed in 2014, which was confirmed by the Commissioner for Public Appointments as a fair and open competition.