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Michael Grade


Michael Grade

BBC Chairman

Opening statement by Michael Grade at DCMS seminar on governance

Friday 3 December 2004
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Thank you Terry [Sir Terence Burns]. As you have made clear in your paper, the BBC's system of governance is an important element of this Charter review process.

I agree. It is pivotal to our own shared objective of a strong and independent BBC.

But in debating the principles of good governance and what might be the right model for the BBC, we should not lose sight of the key objectives here.

It is to fulfil the BBC's primary purpose: to deliver something of value to everyone.

No one denies governance of the BBC needs modernising. But before tearing it up by the roots we must remember that over 80 years after its creation the BBC still enjoys widespread support from its licence fee payers.

This would suggest that in terms of outcomes the current structure, for all its faults, delivers.

For licence payers, the key question is: are we getting value for our money?

Quite rightly, they want quality programmes that inform, educate and entertain in return for the licence fee - efficiently made and delivered.

However they might wish, no other country has a BBC equivalent. Where a public service broadcaster exists in other countries they are limited, either by lack of scale and scope dictated by little or no public funding, or by government control that removes any notion of independence.

So, what is it about the BBC's system of governance that needs to be changed if the Governors are to deliver the best value to licence payers and safeguard the BBC's independence from political interference?

The criticisms include:

Lack of accountability to licence fee payers

Lack of independence from management

And confusion between the roles of governing and regulating

The Board of Governors readily agrees it needs to change - and change radically - to meet these valid criticisms.

That is why we put forward our radical ideas in Building Public Value to which - if I may say - your document does not do justice - perhaps because you published in advance of this opportunity to hear about them.

If we keep in mind through today and the debate that will follow what is in the best interests of the licence payers, I suggest there are five fundamental principles of governance any model must deliver:

Political independence

Rigorous stewardship of public money

Accountability to licence payers

Clarity of roles

Practicality: will it actually work?

In Building Public Value the Governors proposed radical reform to establish effective independence from management. Not so detached that we couldn't exercise close scrutiny over management's activities, but distant enough to increase our objectivity on behalf of the licence payers.

I shall say more about the 'BPV model' later and the significant changes we are developing to increase our accountability to licence payers, including the Governors' complaints system, an AGM, systematic consultation (perhaps interactively) with licence payers about the BBC's annual objectives, a code of conduct for the Governors, and an independent annual appraisal of the Board itself.

I do hope the BPV model receives equal time during the debate. It is radical, but it is also simple, economic and effective, building on the bits that work and already making a difference to the way the Board operates.

It is one model that meets all the prerequisite principles of governance.

The onus today is for others to prove why deconstructing and replacing our revised model will meet all five principles more effectively.


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