The BBC Trust faces being scrapped and the Corporation placed under the control of industry regulator Ofcom, Westminster sources have revealed.
The Mail Online report:
This would mean the BBC being governed by an external body for the first time in its 92-year history.
The move may come into force under the next charter. The current charter, which determines how the BBC runs, including setting the £142.50 licence fee, expires next year.
It was reported that the plan to remove the Trust will be one of the proposals in a Green Paper, expected to be published in the coming weeks, that will signal the start of formal negotiations for the new charter.
Last night, the BBC Trust accepted that the Charter Review could see it abolished as the Corporation’s regulator. But it insisted it was more likely that its responsibilities would be transferred to a new ‘bespoke’ watchdog created solely for the BBC, rather than to Ofcom.
New Culture Secretary John Whittingdale was recently forced to insist he did not have a ‘vendetta’ against the BBC, despite having previously branded the licence fee ‘worse than the poll tax’. However, he also insisted that it needed a ‘very robust system in place’ to deal with issues of impartiality.
Rona Fairhead, head of the BBC Trust, has previously spoken of her desire to see a ‘bespoke’ regulator set up to govern the BBC. However, if it comes to pass, this new proposal would sweep her proposal aside.
The Daily Telegraph reports that Ministers plan to expand the remit of Ofcom to include the BBC, on top of its current role as a watchdog for telecoms and commercial media industries.
The Government is reported to believe that Sharon White, the head of Ofcom, has the required level of independence to take on the politically charged role of regulating the BBC.
While negotiations for the new charter have not yet formally begun, a source close to the Government’s plans told the newspaper that the abolition of the Trust in favour of Ofcom was more than likely, saying: ‘You can put your mortgage on it.’
The job of regulating the Corporation includes overseeing its editorial standards, reviewing value for money and monitoring its market impact.
The plans are thought to have the support of Chancellor George Osborne who has previously praised Ofcom for its work regulating commercial broadcasters.