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.


Interesting to read how the private sector could help us all by running parts of the BBC; I am advised;

“As the BBC comesunder increased pressure from tightened budgets, the executives of theBirmingham-based commercial radio station brmb have come up with a solution tomaintain localness and save money. There is serious debate about limiting BBC local radio stations to one or twolocally produced shows a day with BBC Five Live filling the rest of the time.In light of this the management of brmb has offered to run BBC WM at asignificantly reduced budget with a saving to the BBC and the licence payer.

The senior team behind brmb, Phil Riley and David Lloyd, have a track record ofmajor achievements in the radio industry. Between them, they have experience ofmajor roles in broadcasting in the UK from regulation to content creation andbusiness management. They successfully rebuilt London talk station LBC,re-establishing the image of the station and its audience. The team alsoapplied in 2003 for an OFCOM licence to run a commercial talk station inBirmingham ‘WBC’. Chief Executive of Orion Media (parent company of brmb) Phil Riley believesthat it is unthinkable that the UK’s second city should not have a fullyoperational news talk service: “The suggestion is outrageous. This city creates a mass of news and sportstories everyday. It is unacceptable that the BBC should be cutting back on itsservice to the city. We already have an accomplished and credible news andsports team based at brmb ready and willing to provide the service. 

“Great talk radio is about not just news, but local presenters, interesting guestsand listeners who want to participate and reflect the richness of the areawhere they live.” The financing of the service is not an issue, Mr Riley says:“From our understanding of the costs of running BBC WM, we believe we couldachieve a fifty percent saving. This would be great news for the listeners andthe people of Birmingham and the country at large. Isn’t this the ‘Big Society’in operation – a commercial business offering to provide a public service at afraction of the cost?”

Have to agree with this….just think, a 50% saving simply by getting the BBC bureaucracy out of the way…