NEW BBC CHARTER & AGREEMENT – News Release
News Release 15 September 2016 – for immediate use
NEW BBC CHARTER & AGREEMENT
Today the Government has published the draft new Charter and Agreement for the next eleven years
It will take a while to read, digest, analyse and respond to the detailed proposals. However, our responses to the key points and summary of the drafts from the Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport are as follows:
Peter Blackman, Strategic Director, Save Our BBC said:
- “Licence fee payers have more than ‘a right to know where their money goes’, to have more transparency and see that they get value for money. Until now the Chair and Governors or Trustees have been responsible for representing the licence fee payers. Who in future will be able to say such things as have been said today by the BBC Trust, that is:
- ‘We don’t agree with the Government on everything and are disappointed with the decision on the disclosure of presenters’ pay. We don’t believe this is in the long-term interests of licence fee payers.’
- Who in future will be able to make the strategic points we make below and be seen to debate them transparently with the BBC Board?
- We acknowledge that the licence fee payers are not the only stakeholders to whom the BBC [unitary board under the new Charter proposals] will be accountable. All the other stakeholders will have some body [person or organisation] seen to represent them eg Government, Ofcom. Parliament, NAO, other broadcasters, other media. As concluded and recommended in our report http://saveourbbc.net/inquiry/ accountability is more than just consultation, involvement, research and transparency. It is also engagement, dialogue and direct response [not necessarily agreement]. Licence fee payers for the first time will not have some body external, to and independent from, the management of the BBC to ‘fight their corner’. This in the 21st century when ‘the changing digital world’ provides more means than ever before for effective engagement and accountability.
- Limited Transparency is not helpful or enough; simply making the BBC publish what it pays talented employees is insufficient; it will only make sense if other UK broadcasters have to do the same so the licence fee payers see the context and can judge the value they get; the BBC operates in the mixed economy media market and that’s where it must be judged.
- Financial audit and full scrutiny by The National Audit Office (NAO), or any auditor, must not impinge in any way upon the necessary confidentiality of personnel and commercially sensitive matters, and nor must Parliamentary scrutiny (of the NAO and BBC) and privilege do so either.
- In our independent Inquiry Report http://saveourbbc.net/inquiry/ we recommended that the unitary board must be effective and independent; we believe a board of 14 can be functional and efficient and welcome the majority that will be given to BBC appointed board members to ensure its independence
- We note the decision to hold a full, fair and open competition for the post of Chairman of the new BBC Board and recognise this brings increased transparency; nevertheless we pay tribute to the hard work of Rona Fairhead and her predecessors as Chairs of the BBC Trust. all of whom have done their best to fulfil a difficult role which has involved contradictory responsibilities.
- We absolutely agree with Culture Secretary Karen Bradley MP that ‘The BBC produces world class programming that is admired and respected by [hundreds of – our addition] millions around the world.’
- So called ‘enhancing the distinctiveness of BBC content’ must not be a veiled device to stop the BBC entertaining in equal measure with informing and educating its audiences.
- We welcome the clarity brought to the governance and regulation of the BBC with the creation of the new unitary Board governing the BBC and Ofcom regulating the BBC.
- We welcome the recognition by the Government that the editorial independence of the BBC is sacrosanct.
- We welcome financial stability for the BBC and continuation of its funding by means of the licence fee.
- However, we remain gravely concerned that the licence fee settlement, which was not made in transparent fashion, will lead to more severe cuts to BBC content production and delivery of services. The Culture Secretary and Prime Minister have emphasised the need for transparency and independence and we call upon them to rerun the licence fee negotiations accordingly to ensure that the BBC has the resources to enable it to deliver the obligations placed upon it by the draft Charter and Agreement in a full, cost effective way which will deliver value for money and the outputs to ensure the BBC remains the world class broadcaster we all want it to be.
- The BBC is the market maker of UK broadcasting which is founded and based on public service broadcasting (PSB) principles. It is not an intervention. All broadcasters have joined the market knowing it is a mixed economy driven by the PSB ethos. The BBC must be able to continue to operate and compete fairly in this mixed PSB environment and not be restricted in so doing.
- We have consistently called for the BBC better to serve all the nations and regions of the UK with greater devolution, whilst not adversely affecting its ability to benefit from economies of scale. It must also improve as swiftly as possible the internal diversity of its people and the external representation in its content and services.
For further information, interviews and queries please contact:
Save Our BBC CIC
Tel: 07966 170623
Voicemail: 01245 322079