Jackson angers BBC by calling for board of governors to be abolished

Michael Jackson, the chief executive of Channel 4, yesterday infuriated BBC bosses by calling for the abolition of the BBC's board of governors.

Mr Jackson, a former Controller of BBC 2, said he wanted the BBC to report instead to "a single regulatory structure for all broadcasters, public and commercial".

His comments sparked instant fury at the BBC, which regards its self-regulatory system as vital for Greg Dyke's plans for massive commercial expansion of the Corporation.

Delivering the Royal Television Society's annual Fleming Memorial Lecture, Mr Jackson said "the BBC's board of governors is not an adequate or sustainable form of independent regulation".

The BBC has fought a long battle to retain a regulatory system which many of its competitors regard as self-serving and somewhat cosy. In the past, BOG, as it is known inside the BBC, has been something of a laughing stock, often being easily manipulated by strong chairmen. In recent years, government and the BBC have both tried, with some success, to improve the quality and professionalism of the Board. However, the question of its future has been reopened by Chris Smith, the Culture Secretary, who is currently considering the future of the entire regulatory system for broadcasting in Britain.

Mr Jackson also last night stated his unequivocal opposition to any attempt to privatise Channel 4.

He stressed that Channel 4's output would change dramatically if it were privatised, saying its current structure is "one of the reasons we're the only channel in recent years to increase investment in news".

He also threw down the gauntlet to the BBC's new head of feature films, Alan Yentob, who has been charged with emulating Film Four's success in producing full-length movies. Channel 4, he announced, is to produce seven big budget films over the next three years in a joint venture with the US studio Warner Brothers.

He portrayed Channel 4 as a risk-taking channel, different from the BBC which "by the nature of its funding cannot be in the vanguard. It can't risk overly offending".

He added: "It's the BBC's role to reinforce the individual's role in the community. Channel 4's job is to underline the independence of the individual".

Warming to his theme of Channel 4 being at the danger end of British broadcasting he also tried to put distance between the network and ITV. "It's Channel 4's role to innovate in the creative community, ITV's to follow," he said.

He also attacked the commercial network for a lacklustre digital strategy. "The ITV companies have not exactly embraced the digital future," he said. "In withholding ITV2 from the Sky platform, ITV is mounting a Custer's Last Stand of almost pitiful futility."

Channel 4 is about to embark on a major diversification strategy which will include the launch of a new digital entertainment channel E4, which will have "a strong interactive element" and be "a hothouse for new talent".

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