MPs to investigate choice of BBC chief

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The Independent Online
THE BBC is facing a wide-ranging investigation by Parliament over the the selection of its next director-general.

The row over the corporation's top job has prompted MPs to look into what they believe is a "byzantine" and "opaque" appointments process. The House of Commons' Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, chaired by the Labour MP Gerald Kaufman, is set to launch a full inquiry into the system in the autumn, as part of a wider review of the corporation's funding, The Independent has learnt.

The race to find a successor to Sir John Birt, the outgoing director- general, has been marked by a rash of stories - principally about Greg Dyke, the Pearson television chairman and Alan Yentob, the BBC's head of television.

Mr Dyke's candidacy has been dogged by criticism of his pounds 50,000 donation to the Labour Party. Mr Yentob has been left off the final shortlist.

Committee members believe the selection process is riddled with secrecy and a lack of accountability, in conflict with the corporation's status as a publicly-funded broadcaster.

Some MPs have been exasperated by recent reports, which suggest that individual candidates are supported by different members of a divided board of governors. Sir Christopher Bland, the BBC chairman, is understood to be trying to persuade other governors to back Mr Dyke, while some support Tony Hall, the chief executive of BBC News.

One senior member of the select committee said yesterday that the BBC's appointments process was "antiquated and secretive" and should be opened to the "bright light" of public scrutiny. "What we see are leaks in the press about who likes who and who is thought to be out of the running. It's a farce," he said.

The Tory MP Michael Fabricant, a member of the select committee, said the investigation should form part of a wider examination of the way the BBC was governed: "I think the general view is that things can't be allowed to carry on ...

"The BBC receives a licence fee that effectively gives it public funding of pounds 2bn a year and yet some of its operations are as opaque as the selection of a new Pope. At least with the Pope, you can see the white smoke. You can't say the same of the BBC."