Ryder delays BBC charter proposals

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The acting chairman of the BBC said yesterday that the publication of the corporation's crucial document on the review of its charter would be postponed in the wake of the fall-out from the Hutton inquiry.

Lord Ryder of Wensum said that the document - which sets out the BBC's case for having its charter renewed after 2006 - should not be published until it had been assessed and approved by a new chairman and director general.

He defended his decision to apologise "unreservedly" over the Dr Kelly affair but vowed to maintain the corporation's independence. In an article printed in the BBC's in-house journal Ariel, Lord Ryder said that an advertisement for the post of chairman would be placed in "the Sunday newspapers".

He said that he had been assured by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport that by the middle of April a replacement would have been found for Gavyn Davies, who resigned last week following criticisms of the BBC by Lord Hutton.

Lord Ryder, who said he was not a candidate for the chairmanship, said: "Our major document on charter review was due to be published in March. We have agreed to postpone publication until a new chairman and permanent director general can take personal ownership of it."

Greg Dyke resigned as the BBC's director general following the Hutton findings into matters surrounding the death of Dr David Kelly, a government scientist who committed suicide after being identified as the source of a controversial report on BBC Radio 4.

The report accused the Government of deliberately exaggerating the weapons capability of Iraq in order to strengthen the case for war, an accusation which Lord Hutton concluded was unfounded.

In a rallying call to BBC staff, Lord Ryder promised that under the acting director general Mark Byford, the corporation would retain its commitment to "brave, independent and rigorous journalism" including "investigative reporting set within a robust editorial framework".

"The board will never interfere with this work. Nor shall I allow any external body to interfere with the BBC's crucial independence," he said.

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