BBC 'lame duck' chair Rona Fairhead interviewed: corporate takeover of public institutions





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Published on Jul 14, 2015

Corporate Takeover of UK Public Institutions
HSBC director Rona Fairhead hails end of licence fee - steers £170m cuts plan through BBC
10th July 2015

'Lame duck' BBC Trust chair should quit, says Labour's Chris Bryant
Shadow culture secretary says trust system of governance is not fit for purpose, but Rona Fairhead says to quit would be dereliction of duty
Jane Martinson Friday 10 July 2015

The shadow culture secretary, Chris Bryant, has said the chair of the BBC Trust should resign because the government has turned her into a “lame duck” through its recent secret funding deal with the BBC.
Analysis Worst week of BBC's life may be just a warm-up for bigger battles ahead
Cuts in channels and services appear inevitable after ‘quick and dirty’ licence fee deal, and inflation-linked increases remain dependent on charter review
The Labour MP said the position of Rona Fairhead at the head of the BBC’s governing body was weakening the corporation as it entered talks with the government over the renewal of its 10-year royal charter.
“If I had been treated the way she’s been treated, I would have resigned,” Bryant said. “And my anxiety is that if [the government] are going to keep on treating the chair of the BBC Trust like this through charter renewal, you’re not going to have a robust discussion, you’re going to have a caving in.”
On Monday, it emerged that the BBC had agreed to shoulder the £700m cost of providing free TV licences for the over-75s from 2020 – a deal negotiated in secret, It was subsequently criticised by several former senior BBC figures including the former director general Lord Birt and the former chair Sir Christopher Bland.
Fairhead also criticised the way the deal had been negotiated and said that it would inevitably have an impact on BBC services. “We accept this decision is a legitimate one for the government to take, although we cannot endorse the process by which it has been reached,” she said on Monday.
Bryant, who is due to give a speech on the broadcasting industry on Tuesday, said the “utter shambles” of the past week had underlined the fact that the 10-year-old trust system of governance was unfit for purpose and said the BBC had been “bullied” by the government. He is expected to outline new plans for BBC governance next week.
“We’re about to go into charter renewal and governance is a big part of that,” he said. “The current structure is not fit for purpose and I think this whole thing shows that.
“The BBC Trust, and in particular the chairperson, needs to be robust and able to tell the government home truths. The BBC are the embodiment of the independence of the BBC … And I am mystified that nobody has chosen to resign.”
Fairhead said resigning would be a “total dereliction of duty”. Rejecting Bryant’s demand, she said: “I came here to fight on behalf of licence fee payers and that’s what I did. The mitigations that were accepted will allow a strong BBC with a strong financial long-term future.”
Fairhead, a former executive at Pearson, was appointed BBC Trust chair in 2014 and has since run into a series of controversies that have arguably weakened her position.
In March this year, she effectively called time on her own job when she joined with vocal critics of the trust by calling for the BBC’s internal regulator to be abolished. She said there had been a “faultline in blurred accountabilities” between the BBC and the trust and the “cleanest form of separation would be to transfer the trust’s responsibilities for regulation and accountability to an external regulator”.

“The chancellor has turned her into a lame duck but maybe that’s what they want,” said Bryant of the government-appointed BBC Trust chair. He said that by forcing through the backroom deal, the chancellor had made the views of Fairhead, as well as those of the viewers and listeners she is meant to represent, “irrelevant”. “It’s not her behaviour but her lack of behaviour,” he said.


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