BBC Agreement amendments

Detail of relief at Broadcasting House

The BBC Trust has published details of the agreement with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport which varies the existing BBC charter to take account of the changes introduced in last year's licence fee deal.

Under the deal the BBC takes on financial responsibility for the World Service, Monitoring, Welsh language channel S4C and supporting the local television services the Culture Secretary is establishing.

The agreement also sets out the new arrangements for the National Audit Office to examine BBC spending. At present the NAO carries out value for money reviews of BBC services at the request of the Trust, but in future it will decide its own programme of audits.

Continuing arrangement

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.

Costs and income

Apart from scrutinizing the BBC's books the agreement also sets down the details of the extra financial responsibilities the BBC is taking on. There will be a service licence agreement for the World Service, which will be reviewed every five years by the Trust, and the BBC 'may use the World Service brand to generate additional income.'

It can also use Government cash for specific projects associated with the World Service, providing the Trust agrees.

As for Monitoring, the BBC has full managerial and editorial control, but it can take money from outside bodies for 'additional services', such as monitoring outside the core services it covers.

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