The Board's vulnerability to management capture
A lack of clarity about the Governors' chief responsibilities - regulators
or defenders of management?
A lack of transparency, particularly in complaints
Poor public accountability
The strategy we set out in Building Public Value is radical in addressing
these four weaknesses.
Up to now the Governors have only had access to a very limited resource
to provide independent advice and analysis of management proposals.
We're now building a Governance Unit staffed by experts in a range of
fields, from performance monitoring, to broadcast strategy and economics
and with access to a wide range of external advisers
It's already having an impact
This week saw the culmination of three months work in which the Governors
have scrutinised the four major reviews currently underway which will
have radical implications for the BBC and therefore licence-fee payers.
We have taken expert, external advice
We have challenged management on their thinking and their assumptions
We support management's strategy to deliver the vision of Building Public
Value which Mark Thompson will be speaking about next week
And we have now asked them to bring to us more detailed plans, which
will be subject to external, independent validation and audit before
the Governors sign-off the Director General's proposals
Our only concern in this process has been to ensure that whatever
the outcome of the reviews, the licence fee payer receives a better
This ability to be separate from management and yet also engaged is
what marks out the BBC's unique system of governance.
It is worth preserving for one simple reason - it is the only way that
we can establish a direct link between the interests of the public and
the actions of the management.
Clarifying the Governors' role
Many people say the Governors are inevitably torn between their duties
as regulators and their duty as Governors to defend BBC management.
I've never seen it as the job of Governors to defend BBC management
- rather, it's their job to defend the BBC for the licence fee payer.
But it really is a false dichotomy to see the Governors' job as regulator
as incompatible with that of governance.
In commercial companies there is an inevitable tension between regulation
- which is in the public interest - and governance, which is in the
interest of shareholders.
In the case of the BBC the public are our shareholders and for that
reason regulation and governance work best when they work together -
that's exactly what we've been doing this week, ensuring the objectives
we agree with management are effectively and efficiently delivered by
them. This is what makes the BBC different.
The reforms we are putting in place are therefore focused on establishing
clear distance between the governors as custodians of the public interest
and the management.
To that end:
We're introducing Service Licences next year, setting out clear, objective
criteria by which we - and the public - will be able to judge their
We'll carry out a regular cycle of reviews of services which we'll publish
We'll apply the Public Value Test to any new service or major change
to any existing service to make sure it really is in the public interest
We can say more about the detail of these reforms later
That's a start but we need to go further. We're now drafting the idea
of a Governors' Protocol:
This would set out the different ways in which the Board would be required
to act independently of management