New system of BBC governance is working : Grade

MUMBAI: The BBC's new system of governance is delivering the radical change that is vital to ensuring that the UK pubcaster is effectively governed and regulated for the 21st century.

This was the crux of the speech that BBC chairman Michael Grade delivered at the Oxford Media Convention.

He said the BBC needed to change to ensure effective regulation. He added that any reforms had to ensure the independence of the BBC and accountability to licence fee payers.

Grade maintained that he had not accepted the job of BBC Chairman after the Hutton report caused a shake up to defend the status quo: "It was clear to me on applying for this job that an urgent programme of reform was needed to give everyone new confidence that the Governors could represent the public interest and become sensitive to the complex, multi-media world it now shares with so many private-sector players.

He said that it was unfortunate that the Charter review debate about governance was coinciding with the implementation of the new system, rather than after the reforms were complete.

Grade said that the new system was already addressing the problems that were inherent in the old system. "Our new system is up and running. Although not complete in every detail yet, it is delivering. It's already clear that it does enable us to engage closely enough to scrutinise management activity, while at the same time giving us enough distance and formality of process to guarantee objectivity on behalf of licence-fee payers.

"I really do believe it answers the material criticisms levelled at the old system." He said the Board of Governors remained open to proposals designed to improve the new system further and he said these should be tested against five principles that any system of governance should deliver. They are :

1. Independence of the BBC

2. Rigorous stewardship of public money

3. Accountability to licence fee payers

4. Clarity of roles

5. Practicality - can it be made to work?

The BBC's new system of Governance includes a new Governance unit which is independent of - and located apart from - senior management and making more use of independent external advisers. There will also be rolling cycle of transparent, independent reviews of BBC services and activities, including issues raised by audiences.

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