This is from BBC journo Nick Jones who is keen to see the licence fee retained and ‘to explore the factors that led executives to detach themselves from the ethos of a public service financed by a compulsory licence fee,‘ but has some other interesting thoughts on the BBC:
How did the BBC end up being controlled by so many selfish and incompetent executives? For me the starting point has to be the challenge the Corporation faced in adjusting to the rapid expansion of radio and TV services during Margaret Thatcher’s premiership. Opening up the airwaves to competition and loosening the stranglehold of the BBC-ITV duopoly were steps which helped to create and then sustain the vitality of the vibrant broadcasting industry we have today. But the well-ordered structures of Auntie could not always cope with the repercussions of a Thatcherite free-for-all; new services came and went as ratings and market forces eroded the hitherto certainties of the BBC and a commercial TV monopoly that had originally been dubbed a “licence to print money”.
Rather than proclaim openly and publicly what the BBC required from licence fee negotiations, Birt and his acolytes preferred to deal directly but privately with the government of the day, adviser to adviser, strategist to strategist – a process that accelerated once Tony Blair was elected prime minister and their appointees became part of a revolving and self-perpetuating web of advisers, lobbyists and the like.
Perhaps a final word should go to Margaret Hodge, chair of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, who has urged Hall and Lord Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust, to redouble their efforts to establish clearer lines of accountability. She had her own explanation for the National Audit Office’s calculation that in the three years to 2012 the BBC gave severance payments to 150 senior members totalling £25m, half the budget of Radio 4:
“They failed to understand they were dealing with licence fee payers’ money. There was a culture at the top where people had known each other for years and years. They probably came in together as graduate trainees and it seemed right they should look after each other when they lost their jobs, giving out lots of public money in unacceptably high pay offs”