The appointment of the next chairman of the BBC Trust, the broadcaster's governing body, could see short-listed candidates taking part in an X Factor-style popularity contest before a panel of MPs. The two front-runners are Lord Patten, former Tory party chairman, and Sir Howard Davies, director of the London School of Economics.
Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has been urged to allow the 11-strong Commons Committee on Culture, Media and Sport to summon the final two candidates so that they may demonstrate their credentials for the job.
The committee would inform Mr Hunt of its preferred option, though it would be for the Secretary of State to make the final decision. The contest is the idea of the shadow Culture Secretary Ivan Lewis, who believes such a process would help to dispel claims that the final appointment was politically motivated. The current BBC Trust chairman, Sir Michael Lyons, who will stand down at the end of April, was the object of suspicion from Tories due to his long ties with Labour.
On 28 and 29 January, the six candidates on the long list will undergo interviews before a panel of four, overseen by the Commissioner for Public Appointments, Mark Addison. The panel will include Jonathan Stephens, permanent secretary at the Department of Culture, Media & Sport, Stewart Purvis, former editor-in-chief of ITN and Lord Browne, the former chief executive of BP. The other four candidates are understood to be Dame Patricia Hodgson, principal of Newnham College, Cambridge, and a member of the BBC Trust, Richard Hooper, former deputy chairman of the broadcasting regulator Ofcom, Anthony Fry, an investment banker specialising in media and also a BBC Trustee, and Richard Lambert, director-general of the CBI.
Mr Hunt has indicated to the select committee that he would "certainly look sympathetically at any request" from the MPs to have a role in the process. Changes introduced in 2008, allow for select committees to hold pre-appointment hearings with government nominees for major posts. Mr Lewis told The Independent an appearance before the committee of the final candidates would create a "much more transparent and open process".
The BBC Trust was set up in 2007 to replace the previous system of governance which was found wanting by the Hutton inquiry. Sir Michael Lyons was its first chairman but announced in September that he would not be seeking a further term because the job was too demanding for the time he was able to commit to it. The Trust has been criticised by all major parties but Sir Michael, a former chief executive of Birmingham City Council, faced particular criticism from Tories because of his previous involvement in Labour politics. Lord Patten is the favourite to succeed Sir Michael. Among those who declined the role are Sir Stuart Rose, chairman of M&S and Dame Marjorie Scardino, the chief executive of Pearson.