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BBC Trust should be abolished, says government review

By | Published on Wednesday 2 March 2016


The BBC Trust should be abolished and regulation of the Corporation handed over entirely to media regulator OfCom. Not my words, ladies and gentlemen, but the words of David Clementi, who has just reviewed the role of the Trust for the UK government as part of its ongoing review of the BBC’s operations and funding.

Clementi reckons that the BBC Trust in its current form is “flawed” and should be replaced by a “unitary board” of mainly non-executive directors. Which is a little like the old BBC Board Of Governors that the BBC Trust replaced, though this new board wouldn’t have the full-on regulatory role of its predecessors, instead being tasked with ensuring that the Corporation meets its specific obligations under the Royal Charter than enables its licence fee funding, while also acting on behalf of licence fee payers.

OfCom, which regulates the wider broadcasting sector, and already has some regulatory powers over the BBC, would then take on the rest of the regulatory responsibilities that currently sit with the Trust. Says Clementi: “Regulatory oversight should pass wholly to OfCom, which is already the public service regulator for the UK’s broadcasting industry and has the ability to look at the BBC in the context of the market as a whole. Ofcom would be a strong regulator to match a strong BBC”.

Despite it basically calling for her organisation’s abolition, BBC Trust Chair Rona Fairhead nevertheless backed much of what Clementi recommended, saying: “David Clementi proposes a strong BBC board and a strong external regulator – a change we have argued for. It will be important to get the details right, and we now want to work with the government to ensure roles are clear, the structure is effective and the BBC’s independence protected”.