Will Wyatt: Radical spin that requires radical answers

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I have looked at the future of the BBC and, overall, it looks pretty good. The BBC has asked itself some radical questions and this submission suggests that it may be up for some radical answers.

I have looked at the future of the BBC and, overall, it looks pretty good. The BBC has asked itself some radical questions and this submission suggests that it may be up for some radical answers.

It is the language that is especially interesting. This paper dares to talk about a BBC "as small as its mission allows".

It also speaks of the importance of having "in-house activity based on public rather than institutional priorities". That could be interpreted in quite a radical way - certainly if I were an independent producer I would be quite excited by that.

The BBC's job is to put on the best possible programming wherever it comes from. A strong in-house production arm should be part of that but it should be in open competition with the independents because if they are coming up with better things, then why shouldn't the public have them?

At the launch of the BBC's case, Michael Grade promised to "eliminate derivative and cynical programmes". You could only say "three cheers" but although derivative can sometimes be bad (a feeble copy) it is important to remember that it can also be good (where it takes an idea and develops it).

The paper's proposals for reform of the governors were inevitable. We all expect greater accountability and transparency in public organisations. BBC journalists expect it from organisations they report on and BBC staff expect it from the public utilities they deal with in their private lives.

It's important that the BBC governors are able to offer vigorous criticism of management and do so in public from time to time without everybody bursting into tears. Giving them access to research, analysis and advice is a big step towards making that a reality.

The clear statement on the public value that the BBC offers to the world is also very sensible. The trick will be to keep it practical and not let it become mechanical. It should be used to make sure services are delivering what they should be - but don't start applying it programme by programme because that way madness will lie.

I do have one concern: the future strength of in-house programming. They are obviously going to move elements out of London and there is a danger that what was a big in-house production capability ends up in penny packets around the United Kingdom. If you fragment it too much then no individual bit is strong enough to attract the best talent.

The writer was head of BBC Broadcast, 1996-1999.

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