I did a post some months back over at Our Beeb on how the BBC could become accountable to licence payers, and today, Tessa Jowell has said something similar in the Telegraph.
When I wrote the piece, it was all a touch theoretical since the BBC’s governance wasn’t a live issue.
I’m still not in any way convinced that the Savile and Newsnight affairs have any real and pressing read through to governance, but as we saw with the reform of the FA that followed revelations that the England Manager and the CEO were both seeing the Deputy CEO’s PA, in Britain, reform often starts from completely unconnected causes.
What is missing though is how you’d do it. Currently, this is the BBC Governance Map:
The public are pretty much excluded; our role is to elected MPs, who form a government which appoints Ministers who make recommendations to the Queen. It’s so indirect as to be meaningless; such public views as get refracted are the hysterical ones that are amplified by the latests tabloid hue and cry.
But if you made the Audience Councils elected people, who then chose the Trustees, then you’ve radically empowered the licence paying public.
And, as an added side-beenfit, you’ve disempowered the Privy Council and the Ministers. It’s ironic too that one of the objections you get to this is that it will make the BBC governance somehow politicised; the chance are that it wouldn’t in all likelihood. But of all the arrangements to militate against this, it strikes me that we have the worst of the lot in place now since every second parliament, a government gets to rewrite the terms of the BBC’s existence, meaning the BBC have to be mindful of what’s coming down the line.
It seems to me that we should ask our politicians to guarantee a state of affairs in which we have the voice, not let them act in our name because we’re variously too stupid, venal, motivated and otherwise disengaged. Lord Reith’s world died quite some time ago.