Editorial Independence, Or Unaccountability?

Can somebody please read this update of the BBC Agreement (as in “Charter & Agreement”) and tell me if “Editorial Independence” actually translates into “Unaccountability”?

Continuing Agreement

Concerns have been expressed that the NAO reviews could lead to individual star’s salaries becoming public, or the details of managerial decisions on finance, because the NAO can ask for any information it needs for its audit. The wording of the agreement makes no specific reference to those concerns and no such information has been revealed in previous NAO reports on the BBC.

A Trust spokesperson said: ‘The NAO already have full access to the information they need to carry out reviews of the BBC; today’s announcement confirms and continues that arrangement. In addition it will now enable the NAO to decide which areas to look at, but in an arrangement where it will continue to submit reports to the Trust. We believe that the terms agreed build on the BBC’s existing relationship with the NAO to the benefit of licence fee payers, while preserving the BBC’s independence.’

Editorial Independence

The agreement makes clear that whilst the NAO is ‘entitled to review any BBC decision’ it is not entitled to ‘question the merits of any editorial or creative judgment or policy decision about the way BBC services are made or distributed.’

The Trust will still do its own value for money reviews, in fact the agreement requires it to lay out its own programme of such work each year. The NAO can’t examine the same area as the Trust in the same year.

The NAO will submit its reports to the Trust, which will prepare a response before sending both to the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament.

There’s more at the link. The NAO (or anyone else, presumably, like OfCom) can say what they like, but the Trust will decide what to present to Jeremy Hunt, decide what is value for money, and decide if the BBC can syphon off extra Government/taxpayer cash to spend on the World Service. (Hopefully not for hiring yet another field correspondent to cover the US.)

This sounds like unaccountability by any other name.


The BBC is cunning. During the past week as it became clear that Chris Patten was destined to become next Chairman of the BBC Trust the BBC propaganda line has been to suggest he is some sort of far right capitalist loving Tory who might smash them! As Neil Hamilton puts it…

“THE BIGGEST joke of the week was the BBC cowering in terror at the prospect of Lord Patten as chairman. Patten, the most wringing-wet member of the Eighties Tory governments, was the apotheosis of anti-Thatcher, euro-fanatic, social-liberal political correctness. When he lost his seat to the Lib-Dems in 1992, Rightwing wags called it a Tory gain “Patten has spent his life as a political insider and bureaucrat, moving from one Establishment job to another.”

I might add that Patten’s endless vicious criticism of Israel, his pathetic  pandering to the IRA, his obnoxious opposition to the war on terror – all this always plays directly into the BBC meme so it really IS farcical when the BBC pretends that a tough Conservative is now likely to challenge its “impartial values”. What really sickens me is that the likes of Jeremy Hunt is cheer-leading for this appointment. Patten is as much of a Conservative as John Bercow – namely one in name only. 
Furthermore I heard Hunt on Marr bleating about how trusted the BBC is. Trusted to undermine everything decent and good about our country, trusted to attack beacons of democracy like Israel, trusted to elevate Islam, trusted to damn Israel. The BBC seeks to cloak itself in order to carry on the relentless bias and Patten is just another awfully convenient way to do this. I am at a loss to understand WHY the Conservatives play along with this sham.


“Impartiality? Not, say the Tories, with Labour figures heading the regulators” Peter Preston writing in today’s Observer

“Paul Farrelly, the Labour MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme, had a Commons question for our new culture secretary last week. Would the rules governing impartial television news remain sacrosanct in coalition land? To which Jeremy Hunt could have said simply “Yes – I’ve no plans to change anything”. But in fact he went on for a rather fascinating couple of sentences. “We will take no lessons on impartiality from the opposition,” he said, somewhat brusquely. Then he added: “There are two people responsible for impartiality in British broadcasting – the head of Ofcom and the head of the BBC Trust. One is a former Labour councillor and the other is a former Labour special adviser.”

That’s actually the only interesting bit. He goes on to make snippy comments about Boris Johnson’s father for no apparent reason. But it shows that Jeremy Hunt has his eyes open at least.