Ofcom could next year govern the BBC if the BBC Trust is abolished, it has been reported. The BBC Charter is to be renegotiated and if the reported changes go ahead, the industry regulator could be placed in control of the BBC by next year, when the current Charter expires. This would mark the first time in its history that an external body has been placed in charge of the broadcaster.
The BBC exists to serve the public, and its mission is to inform, educate and entertain. Rona Fairhead took over as Chairman last August and, along with 12 Trustees, is tasked with getting ‘the best out of the BBC for licence fee payers’.
In March Fairhead agreed with calls for the Trust to be abolished, saying that financial and editorial failures in recent years have been the result of the way the Trust is managed. Governance of the BBC should be handed to a new board, she said, with an independent chair and a majority of non-executive directors.
The Telegraph cites Westminster sources, who revealed that the Trust’s powers will be handed to Ofcom, and that the move will be outlined in a green paper that will lead to Charter renewal negotiations within weeks.
However, the Guardian this morning has claimed that sources close to the government have denied such reports and that, although the green paper on the BBC will call for the scrapping of the BBC Trust, it will not back an alternative regulator.
“There is going to be an open consultation. To say a decision has been taken is just nonsense”, a source told the Guardian.
The green paper is set to be published before parliamentary recess on 20 July, and the consultation is likely to include both industry experts and the public. The Guardian also reported on the key themes of the green paper, which according to its sources include the privatisation or part privatisation of BBC Worldwide.
John Whittingdale, secretary of state for Culture, Media and Sport chaired a select committee in February, and said at the time: “The trust has failed to meet expectations and should be abolished. It remains far too close to the BBC and blurs accountability rather than it being a sharp and effective overseer of the BBC’s performance as a public service institution.”