BBC DG calls for greater independence, external regulation

BBC director general Tony Hall

BBC director general Tony Hall

BBC director general Tony Hall will call for the UK public broadcaster to have greater independence, and for an external regulator for the Corporation to ensure that is safeguarded.

The BBC boss will address UK business leaders in Cardiff, Wales, later today and the contents of his speech have been widely reported on the BBC and elsewhere.

As well as calling for external regulation, he will tell the business people listening that when he returned to the BBC in 2012, having been in its news department in the 1990s, he saw a greater level of political interference.

“The foundations of the BBC’s independence became weaker,” Hall will say. “The traditions and informal arrangements which protected it had been eroded. Politicians had not done this deliberately – it happened under all parties.”

Discussions around the licence fee should be open and transparent, he will add, mooting the possibility of an online vote to capture the views of the public.

Hall will also warn of ‘unintended consequences’ should the next BBC Charter place restrictions on the services the BBC can develop, or the specific programming it makes.

“If, having cut our money, the charter also cuts our creative freedom to reinvent our services, or our commercial freedom to make up the shortfall…. letting this happen would not just have unintended consequences for the BBC, but for the UK’s creative economy as a whole,” the BBC boss will say.

He will also advocate a longer, eleven-year, period between BBC Charter renewal, in contrast to others calling for a shorter five-year renewal period.

The BBC is under pressure to rein in costs and make savings, and has pledged to make further cuts to achieve some of these. It has also controversially floated plans for BBC Studios, a new production unit that could make content for third parties as well as BBC channels.

These situations are playing out as the Corporation lobbies for an acceptable Charter renewal, as opponents call for it to take on greater responsibilities and for wider restrictions and cost cuts.

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