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BBC extending the public's right of appeal for license fee

MUMBAI: Following a review of how UK pubcaster BBC handles complaints it receives, the BBC Trust is proposing new ways to strengthen and simplify systems and, for the first time, is extending the public's right of appeal to the Trust in serious cases of complaint about how the licence fee is collected.

BBC Trust vice-chairman Chitra Bharucha said, "The Trust represents the interests of all licence fee payers and this includes ensuring that the process for collecting licence fees is efficient and fair. The public – including the very small number who choose not to own a television set – needs a simple complaints' system to handle concerns when things go wrong. For the first time, this complaints' system will include a right of appeal to the Trust in the event that a serious matter cannot be resolved by BBC management."

The Trust will be publishing its proposals for how the BBC should handle all complaints including plans to speed up the process for editorial and fair trading complaints. The Trust is inviting licence fee payers, the rest of the broadcasting industry, and anyone who'd like to get involved, to offer their views during a three-month consultation period.

Under the Trust's plans, complaints against the BBC would still be addressed in the first instance by BBC management. Final appeals to the Trust would apply only once all other avenues had been exhausted.

Bharucha adds, "The BBC is owned by the people who pay for it and the Trust wants to ensure that complaints are received via a system which is open to everyone, consistent in its fairness to all, and simple to follow. For any complaints' system to be effective, it must have the confidence of those who might choose to use it, and the Trust wants to hear from the public and the rest of the industry about the changes we propose to speed up and simplify the BBC's complaints' systems."

The Trust is proposing a number of changes to how the BBC handles complaints about how the licence fee is collected. Since the Trust's review started, systems have already been simplified by reducing the number of stages in the management complaints' process.

In future, BBC management must account to the Trust for its complaints' system and, although the Trust still expects most complaints to be resolved by TV Licensing or BBC management, it now plans, for the first time, to hear appeals in serious cases.

These could include appeals from people who feel they have repeatedly received an unsatisfactory response from the BBC or TV Licensing to their complaints about unfair treatment. For example, members of the public who have received a number of letters or house calls after they believe they have demonstrated they already possess a television licence or do not own a television set.

The Trust believes that reducing the period of time in which complainants can request an appeal to the Trust after receiving a response from BBC management from two months to one month would lead to a more efficient system, enabling appeals to the Trust to be taken more quickly than at present.

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