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FUTURE OF THE BBC  - 2 MARCH 2005

 

The government has outlined its plans for the future running of the BBC. Here are the main points:

 

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell set out the plans for the future of the BBC in a consultation document Green Paper published today.  She told MPs the measures would ensure a "strong, independent future" for the BBC which would remain "responsive and accountable."

About the licence fee, Ms Jowell said: "Although not perfect we believe it remains the fairest way to fund the BBC."

 

 

The Board of Governors, who have overseen the BBC since its foundation 80 years ago, will be replaced by two new bodies - The BBC Trust and formal Executive Board.

The Trust will oversee the licence fee and make sure the corporation fulfils its public service role. The Executive Board will be responsible for delivering the BBC's range of services from television to radio and digital services.  The reform is designed to answer critics who complain that the Board currently faces a potential conflict of interest as the body which both promotes the BBC's interests and acts as its watchdog.

 

The future level of the licence fee is yet to be decided but a review of alternative funding for the BBC will be carried out before the next Charter renewal in 2016.  BBC chairman Michael Grade said he accepted the decision to abolish the board of governors.  But he expressed regret that the Government had not waited to see the results of the BBC's own reforms aimed at separating the Corporation's governance and management structures.

 

 

BBC charter  The BBC's royal charter will run for another ten years, until 2016.

 

 

Tessa Jowell said she wanted to secure the BBC's independence

 

  • The board of governors will be scrapped.

  • It will replaced by two bodies - the BBC Trust and an Executive Board.

  • Current BBC chairman Michael Grade will be the first chairman of the trust, which will represent the licence fee payer and will be responsible for ensuring the BBC's independence.

  • The trust will have significant levels of approval over BBC budgets and strategies.

  • It will also have the power to approve licences for BBC services, testing them on behalf of the public.

    The new body will have to be accountable to licence fee payers, including broadcasting meetings on the internet.

  • The board will look after the day-to-day running of the BBC, and will be headed by current director general Mark Thompson.

    Licence fee

  • The licence fee will stay in place for the next 10 years.

  • The government will decide on the right level for the fee after 2007, and will look at alternative ways of funding the BBC after 2016, including subscriptions.

  • The possibility of sharing the licence fee with other public broadcasters will be considered during the life of the next charter.

  • The licence fee should be used for creative purposes, using the best talent.

    Programme making

  • The BBC should not chase ratings for ratings' sake, and its output should not clash with its commercial rivals.

  • The number of independent productions should be increased as the corporation has exclusive access to licence fee funding.

  • There should be specific programming for the UK's different communities, and significant output made outside London.

  • The BBC is expected to take a leading role in the development of digital services in the UK, including the proposed analogue switch-off.

  • The BBC will also fund schemes to help fund schemes for vunerable consumers during this period.

    Other regulators

  • Broadcast regulator Ofcom will be given increased powers to assess the performance of the BBC, including assessing the impact of any proposed new services.

 

Children watching television

 

Breach of Article 10

 

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A compulsory licence fee remains the "default option" to fund the BBC, Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said in 2002

 

She dismissed suggestions that the government was planning to replace the licence fee as "juvenile" speculation.  Her comments come after a panel advising the Conservatives recommended that the licence fee should be scrapped and the BBC governors abolished.

Ms Jowell said: "I think the licence fee will continue in the absence of a better alternative."

 

The government is conducting a review of the BBC in the run-up to the renewal of its royal charter - which defines its role and funding - in 2006.

The report drawn up for the Conservatives by ex-BSkyB and Channel 5 executive David Elstein recommended replacing the compulsory fee with a voluntary subscription to BBC services.

Ms Jowell told a BBC-sponsored seminar on the future of the corporation that she was ready to consider Mr Elstein's ideas.

 

 

Have your say in a BBC One Panorama debate on the corporation's future

 

 

But she added: "Let me be clear that we have criteria against which we will judge contributions.

"These criteria are the extent to which they strengthen the BBC and the extent to which they secure its independence."  The charter review would "seriously engage in looking at alternatives", she added.  "But in the absence of better alternatives the licence fee remains the default option."

 

BBC One's Panorama is held a debate about the future of the BBC in 2002.

 

 

 


 

 

LINKS: 

 

The BBC's governors are set to be scrapped but the licence fee will be kept, under government plans.

 

 

Scrap licence fee, Tories urged
24 Feb 04  |  TV and Radio

What's the point of the BBC?
22 Feb 04  |  Panorama

Q&A: The BBC's Charter Review
29 Jan 04  |  TV and Radio

Jowell wants public BBC debate
18 Sep 03  |  TV and Radio

Colour TV licence fee to rise 5
11 Nov 03  |  TV and Radio

 

 


 

With thanks to Action Groups across the country for the supply of real case history and supporting documents.  *THAT THE PUBLIC MAY KNOW*

 

 

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