Raymond Snoddy: A reassuring, if unspectacular, outcome

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The Independent Online

In the grand scale of things the BBC has emerged relatively unscathed from more than two years of government scrutiny. The licence fee and the Royal Charter are both secure and a nudge in the direction of fewer "copycat" programmes and a higher proportion of independent productions is surely sensible.

In the grand scale of things the BBC has emerged relatively unscathed from more than two years of government scrutiny. The licence fee and the Royal Charter are both secure and a nudge in the direction of fewer "copycat" programmes and a higher proportion of independent productions is surely sensible.

Given the number of wild ideas - from chopping up the BBC to giving a slice of the licence fee to commercial broadcasters - the outcome is reassuring, if unspectacular.

With technology changing at such a rapid rate, the Government is wise to suggest there should be a further review of the licence fee before the new 10-year Royal Charter runs out. By then we could all have settled into a digital universe. No one can have any firm idea where technology is taking us but one thing is clear. The BBC licence fee is vital in funding of one of the most vibrant production industries in the world. But we are not there yet, and Tessa Jowell, the Culture and Media Secretary, has got the balance right and not over-anticipated the future.

The one question mark surrounds the decision to abolish the BBC governors after nearly 78 years. Lord Hutton has now added another scalp to his belt - the entire governors system. The irony is it is the Government that should be in the dock for letting down the British public, not the governors.

Their "crime" involved too blindly supporting the management and too enthusiastically fighting for the BBC 's independence.

Is the creation of a BBC Trust and a separate executive board a disaster? Hardly, although as the BBC chairman, Michael Grade, said yesterday, it is a shame the Government did not give his proposals more time to be judged.

After all, it's only nine months since Mr Grade gained the chairmanship on a manifesto of creating distance between governors and managers. Presumably, it was an argument that Ms Jowell bought into - or why fight so enthusiastically to appoint Mr Grade?

The outcome smacks of a political deal. Following the report of her independent adviser Lord Burns, Ms Jowell was under pressure to come up with something on governance. What she has produced is only a more extreme version of the separation that Mr Grade was proposing.

The clever bit is to opt for a degree of continuity and keep Mr Grade on board. Mr Grade and his chosen director general, Mark Thompson, have re-established confidence in a battered organisation that faces thousands of job cuts.

When so much had been won, it would have been crazy for Mr Grade to go to the wall over a particular, historic form of governance.

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