As Dame Elan Closs Stephens takes over as Interim Chair of the BBC board and head-hunters are searching for a new Chair, unions representing the creative sector say it is time to have a new, independent body which represents Licence Fee payers.
The Federation of Entertainment Unions (FEU) said:
“As the BBC board is in search of another chair following the departure of Richard Sharp, the FEU says this position should no longer be a gift of the Government.
“Richard Sharp was found to have breached public appointment rules by failing to declare that he facilitated a £800,000 loan to Boris Johnson, who as Prime Minister was ultimately responsible for his appointment. Mr Sharp, who had been a Conservative Party donor, was also a Government insider.
“The board’s job is to ensure the BBC ‘delivers its mission and public purposes’ and monitor policy on changes to the corporation’s public service activities. The NUJ is in dispute over changes and cuts to local radio, the Musicians’ Union members were threatened with job cuts in the BBC Singers and the English orchestras, the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain and Equity have raised concerns about the future of scripted comedy, drama and content for children across TV and audio, and Bectu members face seemingly constant uncertainty through a plethora of restructures.
“But we have not heard a peep from the board. To preserve a strong and thriving public service broadcaster, Licence Fee payers need a champion that is independent from the Government and is prepared to act in their interest. If the BBC is to prize its impartiality, it must be impartial at the top.
“Many of the BBC’s problems stem from under-funding – its budget has been slashed by a third in the past decade. We need a board that is prepared to stand up to the Government rather than be its puppet and argue for sustainable funding to maintain a world class BBC that is pivotal to the success of the wider UK creative industries.”
This week, the Government in its response to the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee report on the appointment of Richard Sharp, said: “The Government is currently considering these recommendations, which include proposals about the public appointments process in general. The Government will respond further in due course.”