Grade and Thompson could go in bust-up over BBC licence fee

The positions of Michael Grade, the chairman of the BBC, and Mark Thompson, the director-general, are under threat over government proposals to give some of the corporation's licence fee to other broadcasters.

The positions of Michael Grade, the chairman of the BBC, and Mark Thompson, the director-general, are under threat over government proposals to give some of the corporation's licence fee to other broadcasters.

The bosses, who have both been in their posts for less than a year, are resisting moves to reduce the BBC's power in what is threatening to be the biggest shake-up of the corporation in its 80-year history.

If they lose, it is thought that Mr Grade and Mr Thompson could decide their positions within the BBC are untenable and resign.

The Government had planned to publish a Green Paper tomorrow on the future of the BBC, whose five-year charter is up renewal at the end of 2006. But its publication has been delayed after the eleventh-hour intervention last week by the former BBC director-general Lord Birt, Tony Blair's "blue-skies thinker". Lord Birt has thrown his weight behind proposals by his fellow peer, Lord Burns, to share some of the BBC's licence fee with other broadcasters, including ITV and Channel 4, to subsidise their own public service obligations.

His intervention puts further pressure on Tessa Jowell, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, to include licence fee sharing as an option in the Green Paper.

Unions have now threatened to hold a ballot for industrial action if the Government backs this proposal.

In December, Mr Thompson announced cost-cutting plans that will lead to up to 6,000 job losses, out of a current workforce of 28,000. Unions say the BBC could not survive another round of cuts, which would have to follow any reduction in its licence-fee funding.

Gerry Morrissey, assistant general secretary of the broadcasting union Bectu, said: "If the Government proposed top slicing, we would tell Mark Thompson he would have to put the announced cuts off.

"If he refused, then we would seriously consider running a ballot for industrial action. We have no doubt it would be successful. There is a lot of anger."

The position of Mr Thompson within the BBC, already weakened by the savage cuts he has put forward, rests on securing a favourable charter settlement. If the proposals for its next charter outlined in the Green Paper suggest top slicing is likely, he could face a vote of no confidence.

Earlier this month, Jeremy Dear, president of the National Union of Journalists, which also represents BBC staff, met Ms Jowell to voice the NUJ's opposition to top slicing.

Mr Grade is also resisting proposals to set up a regulator to oversee the BBC, which would take away much of the power of his board of governors. This new public service regulator could also hold the purse strings to any new licence fund set up for other broadcasters.

Will Wyatt, the former chief executive of BBC Broadcast, writing in today's Independent on Sunday media section, warns that if Ms Jowell were to sanction such a move, it is likely that Mr Grade would resign.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Marketing Services Manager - (communications, testing, DM)

£32000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Services Manage...

Guru Careers: Finance Account Manager

£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Finance Account Manager with...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Direct Marketing Manager - B2C, Financial Services - Slough

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity h...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum