Grade wants independent panel to set licence fee

Michael Grade, the chairman of the BBC, has been accused of "using a sledgehammer to crack a nut" after suggesting the power to set the level of the licence fee should be taken away from the Government and handed to a new independent body.

Michael Grade, the chairman of the BBC, has been accused of "using a sledgehammer to crack a nut" after suggesting the power to set the level of the licence fee should be taken away from the Government and handed to a new independent body.

Mr Grade, who gave a robust defence of the licence fee as he unveiled the BBC's submission on the review of its Royal Charter, said that the panel should be similar to the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee, which sets interest rates.

He said the Government's decision to hand over control of setting interest rates to the committee had taken the politics out of the process, and suggested the same logic should be applied to the BBC.

"Imagine what would have happened if the licence fee decision had fallen in the middle of the Hutton inquiry? The present arrangement would have put the Secretary of State in an impossible position," Mr Grade said.

"While we are taking a root and branch look at the BBC, my personal view is we should have the debate about whether control over the level of the licence fee could be devolved to a specially convened body appointed by, but independent of government," he added.

"Depoliticising the licence fee settlements could be the final underpinning of the BBC's independence."

Chris Bryant, the Labour MP for the Rhondda and a member of the Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport said the suggestion was "using a sledgehammer to crack a nut".

"I don't think anybody has ever accused a Secretary of State of tiresome meddling in the licence fee. Secretaries of State, both Labour and Tory, have equally dealt fairly with the licence fee whatever the journalistic rows between the government and the BBC," Mr Bryant said.

Sharing the stage with the new director general Mark Thompson yesterday, Mr Grade launched a nine-point manifesto for the BBC in the run-up to the renewal of its charter in 2006 and beyond, promising the organisation would become more "open and transparent".

Innovations include a greater separation of the BBC's governors from management, the introduction of a public value test for new BBC services and plans to stop the corporation from being too London-centric.

Mr Thompson set out 2012 as a realistic date for "digital switchover" - two years later than the Government's current aim - and promised to build a "fully digital Britain".

The document - Building Public Value - also questions the very existence of the royal charter, asking whether there could be better ways of running the BBC, for example switching to mutualisation, trust status or establishing the BBC as a public interest company.

"The BBC has to change. The status quo is not an option," declared Mr Grade to a packed house at the Royal Institute of British Architects on London's Portland Place.

Leading figures from the media industry turned out to hear the BBC's vision for its future, including Sly Bailey, the chief executive of Trinity Mirror who is advising the Government's review of the BBC charter and Luke Johnson, the chairman of Channel 4 and until recently Mr Thompson's boss.

THE BOARD OF GOVERNORS

One of the criticisms raised by the Hutton inquiry was that the BBC's governors were too close to management. In an attempt to put more distance between them, the BBC is setting up a new Governance Unit, an independently staffed body offering expertise and support to the governors. Job adverts for the person who will be responsible for that body will appear at the weekend.

PUBLIC VALUE TESTS

All new services will be subject to a "public value test" by the board of governors, before they are launched. The four main criteria all BBC services must meet are audience reach, quality, impact and value for money.

A trial of the test has already been conducted on the BBC's online services, and some will shortly close as a result.

The governors will also be responsible for issuing a service licence to each part of the BBC setting out its remit and budget. Mr Grade warned that if targets are not met "top jobs will be on the line." The BBC has pledged to commission a major piece of independent research every few years to assess how well it is performing, involving up to 10,000 people.

MOVING OUT OF LONDON

"The BBC remains too London-centred," Mr Grade admitted. Over the next 10 years, the BBC aims to have 50 per cent of its public service employees based outside London. Manchester will become the broadcaster's main base outside the capital.

The BBC is also creating a new region in Milton Keynes, Britain's fastest growing town, and will introduce 10 minutes of local news in up to 60 new areas. Over the next decade the corporation has said it will invest £1bn outside London.

PROGRAMMING

Mr Grade said that "cynical, derivative exploitative programming" had no place in public service broadcasting. He said that audience ratings remained "part of the mix" for channels such as BBC1, they were only one measure of success.

Mr Thompson promised more drama and a more prominent place for culture on BBC1 and BBC2. The new director general said the BBC would never again miss its quota for commissioning programmes from the independent sector.

The submission also commits the BBC to restoring serious current affairs to television, particularly to BBC1.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Neil Young performs on stage at Hyde Park
musicAnd his Hyde Park set has rhyme and reason, writes Nick Hasted
News
Women have been desperate to possess dimples like Cheryl Cole's
people Cole has secretly married French boyfriend Jean-Bernard Fernandez-Versini after just three months.
Arts and Entertainment
AKB48 perform during one of their daily concerts at Tokyo’s Akihabara theatre
musicJapan's AKB48 are one of the world’s most-successful pop acts
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Extras
indybestThe tastiest creations for children’s parties this summer
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Paolo Nutini performs at T in the Park
music
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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 Media

ERP Business/ Implementation Analyst

£40000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: This is an e...

Content Manager - Central London

£35000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Content Manager - Central...

Advertising and Marketing Communications Manager

£52000 - £58000 per annum + benefits, company car: Ashdown Group: Advertising ...

Graduate Technical Analyst / Technical Support

£20k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Technical Analyst to join a pion...

Day In a Page

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor