INQUIRY: INQUIRY Specifications
“THE PUBLIC & THE BBC; WHAT ROLE IN OVERSIGHT & GOVERNANCE?”
STAKEHOLDER* ENGAGEMENT WITH, & ACCOUNTABILITY FROM, THE BBC
It is likely that the governance arrangements for the BBC will be revised significantly in the next Royal Charter, which is due to come into effect on 1 January 2017. Until now, whilst the BBC in its various forms has been responsible for the interests of the licence fee payers, this has been left with Executives and Non-Executives appointed by others and without any direct mechanisms for accountability.
This Inquiry has been set up to consider:
- The need and justification for the BBC’s licence fee payers and users to be able to engage with and hold to account the BBC
- Ways in which those who fund the BBC through whatever evolution of the licence fee may emerge in the future have a direct involvement and engagement with the BBC.
What is the purpose of the Inquiry?
To determine if there is a need to promote accountability to licence fee payers and if so to identify possible structures which would meet any need identified. Also to evaluate the impact of Sir David Clementi’s report on governance if implemented.
Why is this Inquiry needed now?
The recent publication of the Sir David Clementi report into the future governance of the BBC has led to much concern about the appointments of proposed Non-Executive Directors of a unitary board for the BBC and of key regulators for the BBC at Ofcom. Should such appointments be made by the Government of the day? Should they be made by the Public Appointments process? In this day and age of transparency and accountability the existing and proposed systems seem to be anachronistic.
There is a very real risk, perceived by some as ministerial intent, that the BBC may become more of a ‘state broadcaster’, further interfered with by Government, rather than being the great independent national broadcaster we have had.
In all the Department of Culture, media & Sport work to date about the BBC’s Charter renewal, there has been no mention of the audiences and service users of the BBC having involvement in its governance.
Before these changes are proposed and imposed, spelling inevitable and detrimental change for the BBC, NOW is the time to address these issues and have them heard by Government. Where is the direct involvement and real influence of the licence fee payers, audiences and service users? Who can they hold to account? How can they hold appointees and the BBC to account? How far should they have direct involvement and how can this be achieved?
What is the timescale?
The White Paper on the BBC’s future is due to be published “by the summer”. We want to inform the Government about ways in which true stakeholder (licence fee payer) engagement and accountability can and should be achieved. Therefore we must report by the beginning of June 2016 when we will publish our findings.
How is the Inquiry gathering its material?
We will invite contributions as widely as possible and accept submissions from individual licence fee payers, members of the BBC’s audiences and users of its services and from media, academic and civil organisations. In addition we will call for oral evidence from key individuals and organisations with specific expertise or experience.
How can I make a submission to this Inquiry?
Anyone who wishes to make a submission should send it as either a Word or pdf document to: firstname.lastname@example.org by no later than 23:59 on Thursday 5 May 2016.
A small number of highly relevant organisations will also be invited to give oral evidence; anyone else who wants to ask about the possibility of giving oral evidence to the Inquiry should contact the Inquiry Secretariat email@example.com no later than 23:59 on Monday 18 April 2016.
Who is the contact for this Inquiry?
The Project Manager is Peter Blackman, Strategic Director, Save Our BBC. The Academic Lead is Richard Sambrook, Professor of Journalism & Director of the Centre for Journalism at Cardiff University.
The Terms of Reference for this Inquiry are:
“An independent Inquiry to Examine ways in which Television Licence Fee Payers and the BBC’s audiences and service users could and/or should engage directly with the BBC to provide clear two way accountability and responsibility.
To report by end May 2016 to inform the Government’s forthcoming White Paper.
Written and oral evidence to be received by Thursday 5 May 2016.
- At present all ‘representatives’ of the Licence Fee payers are appointed in their personal capacities; there is no direct accountable democratic link or responsibility
- Proposed revised governance arrangements do not address this
- In a corporation or membership organisation the paying stakeholders elect their representatives and hold them to account
- Parliamentary reporting and regulatory oversight are not the answers to direct stakeholder accountability
- Views and evidence are invited as to: How can the licence fee payers, audiences and service users of the BBC be properly engaged in this day and age?
This is a joint inquiry, promoted and produced by Save Our BBC with support from Cardiff University.”
*Stakeholder in the BBC: The definition of a “licence fee payer” in the BBC’s Charter includes all the members of its present and future audiences and service users.
The meaning of “licence fee payer”
In this Charter, a reference to a “licence fee payer” is not to be taken literally but includes, not only a person to whom a TV licence is issued under section 364 of the Communications Act 2003, but also (so far as is sensible in the context) any other person in the UK who watches, listens to or uses any BBC service, or may do so or wish to do so in the future.”
Respondents are asked to address the following questions:
Q1: Are you satisfied with the present governance of the BBC under the 2007 Charter as they relate to the accountability of the BBC and BBC Trust to licence fee payers? Please provide reasons.
Q2: Are you satisfied with the governance arrangements suggested for the future of the BBC under a new Charter from 2017 by Sir David Clementi as they relate to the accountability of the BBC and Ofcom to licence fee payers? Please provide reasons.
Q3: Do you have any alternative suggestions as to how the BBC, its governors and regulators might be made accountable to licence fee payers? Please provide reasons and mechanisms.
Any other relevant comments respondents care to make will be appreciated.