Why Coe is set to win BBC race

Lord Coe Lord Coe led London's Olympics bid and chaired the organising committee for the games

Here are a couple of mildly interesting tidbits about my own shop, the BBC.

First (and there is nothing terribly revelatory about this) Lord Coe is a virtual shoo-in to be Lord Patten's successor as chairman of the BBC Trust.

Of course his appointment is not 100%, because there is a formal and slightly cumbersome appointments process.

That process includes interviewing and vetting by a Department of Culture, Media and Sports appointments committee, a recommendation of a preferred candidate by government - after all the "appointable" candidates have been interrogated by the culture secretary, Sajid Javid - then pre-appointment scrutiny by MPs on the DCMS select committee and then formal appointment.


But for the government, which for this sort of thing really means the prime minister and chancellor, Lord Coe is the outstanding candidate.

So presumably they will find a way to get him over these many hurdles.

Why do they rate him so highly?

Well they know him well (George Osborne and Coe once shared an office, I think), and they regard him as an impressive leader, with a remarkable record of success off the track (leading London's Olympics bid, chairing the organising committee for the games, and so on).

One senior government source complained that among the chattering classes Lord Coe is widely and snootily under-rated "as that bloke who won some gold medals".

Oh, and he is a Tory, which is de rigueur (other candidates take note).

Also Lord Coe is reckoned to be broadly positive about the BBC, which matters to Cameron and Osborne because - unlike perhaps the majority of Tory MPs - they are supporters of and believers in the BBC.

Which is not to say they are blindly uncritical.

But they place value on how the BBC wins important friends for Britain overseas - the role it plays in reinforcing the country's "soft power" - and what they would see as its largely standard-raising role in the ecology of UK news, arts and media businesses.

That does not mean the review of the BBC's charter - which the government said when advertising for the post of Trust chairman will now not start till after the general election - would be easy for the BBC, if the Tories form the next government.

The BBC would doubtless face challenges on the scope of what it does and could not expect any increase in the licence fee out of line with austerity in the rest of the public sector.

But it does suggest the charter review would not be about dismantling the BBC; it would not be a choice between life and death.

That said, the review is likely to be rather more existentially challenging to the BBC Trust itself, the body that has the often uncomfortable task of reconciling sometimes conflicting responsibilities - those of regulator, representative of licence-fee payers (who for these purposes can be seen as the owners) and occasional human shield when the Director General lands in a spot of bother.

As I understand it, Osborne and Cameron have never quite understood why the regulation of the BBC could not be done in a cleaner and more ostensibly impartial way by Ofcom.

If the Trust's regulatory functions were removed, it would resemble something like the old governing board or even possibly a public company board, concentrating on oversight of senior executive appointments, money, risk and efficiency. There would be clarity that its ultimate duty of care would be to licence-fee payers.

With these more focussed duties, the BBC Trust chairman could step into the fray and shield the DG from heat in a crisis, without that compromising the chairman's perceived impartiality as regulator (a constant tension under the existing system).

All of which adds up to my second tidbit, which is that there may have been a misinterpretation of the fact that the advert for the Trust chair job says he or she will serve a four-year term.

This was seen as somehow evidence that radical reform of the Trust is off the agenda.

That, I am reliably told, is wrong: if the BBC is not dismantled, the Trust may be.

Robert Peston Article written by Robert Peston Robert Peston Economics editor

How Labour pays for student fee cut

Labour would reduce tax relief for those earning £150,000 or more a year, shrink maximum pension pots to £1m and cut maximum annual pension contributions to £30,000 to pay for a cut to £6,000 in student fees.

Read full article

More on This Story

More from Robert


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 516.

    496. John_from_Hendon

    There is no reason that state businesses should be worse run that private ones!
    There are 2, Politicians & the one you expound on regularly: 'Private Banks' are dead you say, the only reason they haven't failed is Govt props them up, the State Businesses can never go bust they just raise taxes, & they know it, so most (but not all) run for their workers, not the public.

  • rate this

    Comment number 515.

    502. Up2snuff
    How would our economy differ today if 1. We had never privatised our State industries, or 2. If we had got a fair price for all of them, none had been sold too cheaply?"

    Anyone else with an answer?
    The IMF would run the country, as in 1970's & Brown would be using Wilson's words 'devaluation would enable Britain to " break out from the straitjacket" of boom and bust economics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 514.

    32. Gordon
    You really think a BBC funded by advertising would be better, seriously? As for Tax - you know it is not a tax, a tax is something we have to pay, don't' want to listen to TV, radio, then don't pay - what's hard about that?
    What If I want to listen to commercial radio or watch ITV? Why should I pay the BBC for that?

  • rate this

    Comment number 513.

    Love working my butt off in a country where who you know is all that matters :-/

  • rate this

    Comment number 512.

    I'm not surprised that he's a front runner given his success at the London Olympics.
    I suspect he could be a good appointment.
    I hope he's better than Patton who struck me as being too close to the BBC's senior management and was unable to knock heads together.

  • rate this

    Comment number 511.

    @491. TruffleShuffle
    "Like any organisation it makes mistakes. Pubic support is what it needs to improve, not pillory"
    "I'm not sure pubic support will really help."

    Perhaps an offer will be made to Richard Desmond?

  • Comment number 510.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 509.

    So, remind me why we're slipping down the World rating's in EVERYTHING? Put someone in charge who know's SFA about the business he is supposed to be running!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 508.

    Once upon a time the Brits got three things roughly right. Higher education, health and broadcasting, but politicians, ever uncomfortable with pegs that don't fit into their ideological square holes, have set about 'fixing them' and won't be satisfied until they are broken.

  • rate this

    Comment number 507.



    The majority of contribution here now are illogical, not based on or congruent with established fact, generally extremist and motivated by bigotry and hatred.

    Who is to blame for this collapse in standards?

    Why... the BBC & its Trust's Chair. The 400 character limit + "scoring" CAUSES a rise in extremism as have been well shown and I (etc) warned about at the time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 506.

    502. Up2snuff

    our economy differ today if 1. We had never privatised our State industries, or 2. If we had got a fair price for all of them, none had been sold too cheaply?"

    Anyone else with an answer

    1. Dinosaur unions,fighting 1900's class war,causing merry hell.

    2.should not have been sold but run with profit sharing,but way beyond stupid UK management & operatives

  • rate this

    Comment number 505.

    Presumably the Tory establishment actually are hoping that a no hoper candidate wins through. Makes an absolute mess of things in order to reinforce their stance that the BBC is beyond redemption and therefore requires splitting up and selling off piecemeal.

    In their eyes Coe may be the ideal candidate.

    BBC worthies need to tread a fine line.
    It wouldn't do to be caught out trying to help him...

  • Comment number 504.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 503.

    I vote for George Clooney as BBC Chairman

    He's not taking any nonsense from the Daily Mail

    Refusing to accept their apology for printing allegedly fabricated story.

    He'll no doubt be just as rigorous with BBC reporting

  • rate this

    Comment number 502.

    393. Up2snuff
    How would our economy differ today if 1. We had never privatised our State industries, or 2. If we had got a fair price for all of them, none had been sold too cheaply?"


    1) Our taxes would be double what they are now
    2) Virtually nothing.
    Interesting answer although you appear to have contradicted yourself with the answer to #2.

    Anyone else with an answer?

  • Comment number 501.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 500.

    What is Coe's experience?

    >Looking at other's shoes.

    How did he form his talent?

    >Looking at other's shoes.

    What does he expect to be doing at the BBC?

    >Looking at other's shoes.

    All in all an ideal candidate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 499.

    Based on all his other commitments, how much time will he actually spend doing this job and do we, as licence payers, think we are getting value for money at £'000's per hour wages? Run the BBC like a business, not as a sinecure for governmental stooges.

  • Comment number 498.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 497.

    482. watriler

    The reason that the individuals you list will not get a look in...

    The job spec. says:

    "All candidates must always do exactly what they are told by Tory Central Office at all times or every matter" That is why a runner round in circles who vanished up his own flue pipe is the ideal choice - no matter now unfit or incompetent.

    Yes... it is totally corrupt.


Page 1 of 26



Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.