BBC independence at risk from NAO regulation, warns James Purnell
The BBC’s journalistic independence could be threatened if the National Audit Office (NAO) is allowed to investigate the corporation at will, James Purnell, the former minister who became a high-profile BBC recruit, has warned.
Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary, said the NAO should be given unlimited access to the BBC’s accounts to avoid a repeat of the scandal over excessive pay-offs.
But Mr Purnell, a former Labour Culture Secretary who is now the BBC’s director of strategy, argued that politicians could use the implicit threat of an intervention by the public spending watchdog to intimidate the corporation’s journalists.
Speaking at the Royal Televison Society conference in Cambridge, Mr Purnell said the BBC must be free to place politicians and people in power “under tough questioning without looking over its shoulder.”
Mr Purnell said the BBC was already closely “enmeshed” with Whitehall. Funding for the World Service has been transferred from the Foreign Office to the BBC, under the last licence fee deal. The BBC is also paying £300 million from the licence fee to fund the roll-out of broadband, under a deal with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Whilst the BBC was open to discussing a closer working relationship with the NAO, Mr Purnell said there was a “danger” that placing the corporation under further government obligations could interfere with its independence.
The BBC could be set on a collision course with the Government after Mrs Miller told the Cambridge conference: “I want a system where the NAO can look at any area of concern without hindrance or delay.”
Mr Purnell insisted that the split governance model of the BBC Executive and a Trust, headed by Lord Patten, was not broken. “We all agree that the current system can be made to work much better over the next three years (before Charter Renewal),” he said. The BBC has promised to introduce an improved governance structure after an internal review.
Tessa Jowell, the Culture Secretary who established the BBC Trust in 2006, as a replacement for the widely discredited Board of Governors following the Hutton Report, said the body could survive. “The Trust needs to become more assertive and have much more definition over the way that it represents the licence-fee payer,” she told the conference.
BBC sources said reports that Lord Patten could quit the Trust chairmanship before the end of his term in 2015 were purely speculative.
peopleContenders for Time magazine's Person of the Year are a mixture of the good, the bad and the holy
tvSteven Moffat reveals the actor was dying to take on the role of the Time Lord and says he is excited to see what he will do with the character
sportBayern Munich 2 Manchester City 3: City come from two down to beat reigning European Champions
newsAs the world remembers Mandela the hero, the prison where he spent 27 years seems all the more brutal
arts + ents... and a chance to paint Booker Prize winning author Hilary Mantel
danceUnder Tamara Rojo's inspired direction, it seems possible that it could challenge the dominance of the Royal Ballet. We meet some established names and rising stars
travelDiscover Uruguay's jet-set beach resort, an Atlantic enclave with plenty of art and culture to explore on the side
The ten coldest places on Earth
Sir Ian McKellen hits back at Damian Lewis' 'fruity actor' claims
Kenyan politician Mike Sonko left red-faced after photoshopping himself next to Nelson Mandela
Krokodil in Mexico? Teenager hospitalised after 'injecting drug into her genitals'
Nelson Mandela memorial: Cheers, jeers and a masterclass from Barack Obama that stole the show
- 1 Mountain goats' miraculous escape from avalanche captured in dramatic video footage
- 2 It’s shameful that our universities have accepted gender segregation under pressure from the most oppressive religious fanatics
- 3 Sir Ian McKellen hits back at Damian Lewis' 'fruity actor' claims
- 4 Kenyan politician Mike Sonko left red-faced after photoshopping himself next to Nelson Mandela
- 5 Selfie at funeral: Cameron squeezes in on Obama snap at Mandela memorial
- < Previous
- Next >
Initially paid internship designed to lead to full-time job: Inspiring Interns...
£27000 - £31000 per annum + Benefits: Flight Centre Limited: Global travel com...
£35000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: "Exciting Audit S...
Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: As part of an ongoing effort to support local...