“The extent to which the audience feels its trust betrayed … bodes ill for the BBC. In the long term the loser will be public-service broadcasting itself ; the winners the revengists of ‘old’ New Labour.”
Dr Robert Frew reflects on the role of the BBC Trust
BBC Trust Chairman Sir Michael Lyons has recently revealed he will not seek to be re-appointed in the role when his four-year term ends next May.
A few weeks ago, in a letter to Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, Sir Michael said the Trust was robust, workable and effective … with much remaining to be done. So what of the background that led to the formation of the BBC Trust and its future ?
Birth of the Trust
The BBC Trust replaced the BBC’s Board of Governors in January 2007. The Government said it was intended to ensure an “unprecedented obligation to openness and transparency”. But one of its first announcements was that the BBC Trust would review the corporation’s UK news coverage, which, whilst seeming even-handed to some, was seen by others as an insidious first step to totalitarianism : more like a politburo’s flexing its muscles.
Back in the time of Sir John Birt, BBC Director-General (DG) from 1992 to 2000 (now Lord Birt and blue-sky thinker), decisions were made to shift ultimate editorial control from managing editors to the DG. In retrospect one can only conjecture whether there was pressure from the Government at that time. Yet, despite a bitter strike by journalists, the transfer of editorial control went ahead.