The BBC Trust is embroiled in a controversy over excessive payoffs to outgoing executives. British lawmakers are grilling Beeb bosses about the lack of oversight, and anger has reached the point that parliamentarians are talking about scrapping the body that governs the broadcaster and — in theory — represents the interests of taxpayers who fund the Beeb.
The BBC’s funded by British taxpayers, and getting rid of the Trust has big implications for Israel activists and media watchdogs.
That’s because one of the Trust’s key functions is to adjudicate complaints about BBC content — TV shows, radio broadcasts, and news coverage.
The rest of the British media falls under the remit of the UK’s Office of Communications (better known as Ofcom), the press regulatory body. But complaints about BBC impartiality instead go through the BBC Trust. Making sense of the Beeb’s byzantine complaints system was so confusing for readers, I had to write an Idiot’s Guide to Navigating BBC Complaints. It was one of my most widely read posts for two or three years.
The Sunday Times of London reports that lawmakers want to place the Beeb under Ofcom’s jurisdiction. It’s welcome news:
Ministers are planning to hand regulation of the BBC to Ofcom, which oversees the rest of broadcasting, in a sign of the government’s exasperation with the scandal-prone corporation. A senior source at the culture, media and sport department said: “It is clear that the trust, which is both a cheerleader for the BBC and its regulator, does not work. There are contradictions.” . . .
This would require primary legislation, and would take effect from the BBC’s next charter beginning in January 2017. Whittingdale’s committee will open discussions on the charter later this year.
Since 2007, when the BBC Trust began work, the corporation has been subject to Ofcom regulation on matters of obscenity, privacy and harm, but not on questions of editorial impartiality.
Putting the Beeb under Ofcom jurisdiction would be a huge improvement towards holding BBC News accountable for its shoddy journalism, institutional groupthink, lack of transparency, and twisted internal logic.
The Israel ang le is a small time worry for embattled Beeb bosses. The £ 332,780.47 spent on covering up the Balen report wouldn’t have bought out the contract of the BBC’s previous director general. After serving a mere 54 days in the post, George Entwistle received a payoff of £ 450,000. Other executives got more.
Good riddance, BBC Trust.