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Fairhead: BBC future shouldn’t be subject to ‘vested interest’

Rona Fairhead

Rona Fairhead

The future of the BBC needs to be driven by “evidence and fact, not by prejudice and not by vested interest,” according to the head of the BBC Trust Rona Fairhead.

In an open letter on ‘Tomorrow’s BBC’, published by the Independent newspaper, Fairhead said that while the BBC needs to reform and evolve, there is concern that some changes could be irreversible.

“The BBC’s role is to hold politicians to account – and any ability to influence this through the control of funding has a potentially chilling effect on the BBC’s independence,” said Fairhead, writing ahead of the next BBC charter review.

Referring to a recent government licence fee deal, which said that the BBC must foot the bill for free TV licences for those aged over 75, Fairhead said: “We accept that this was a decision the government was entitled to take. But it should make the BBC wary of, ever again, accepting money under the direct control of government.”

Fairhead said it is clear that the BBC needs to reform in a number of areas – “including its costs, the complexity of its structures, its governance, how it works with other parts of the industry and the way it serves an increasingly disparate nation.”

However, she warned that “it is essential that we don’t get seduced by a short-term market failure argument with long-term irreversible consequences.”

“It is essential that we now have an open and honest discussion with licence fee payers about what sort of BBC they want for their money, given that the financial framework has been set. We have already started that conversation but it might ultimately mean presenting the public with pick-and-mix options to establish their priorities.”