BBC charter review: what the panel members have said in the past

This week sees details outlined of ‘root and branch’ review, as advised by eight experts. Here’s what each of them has prevously said on record about the BBC

The culture secretary, John Whittingdale, is to unveil a “root and branch” review of the BBC charter in green paper, whose details will be published this week. He will be advised on the review by a panel of eight experts, including former Channel 5 chair and chief executive Dawn Airey and Dame Colette Bowe, the former chairwoman of the regulator Ofcom.

Its other members are: Andrew Fisher, chief executive of music service Shazam; Darren Henley, chief executive of Arts Council England and managing director of Classic FM; Ashley Highfield, chief executive of regional newspaper group Johnston Press and a former BBC director of new media and technology; Alex Mahon, former chief executive of MasterChef and Broadchurch producer Shine Group; digital entrepreneur Lopa Patel; and Stewart Purvis, a former chief executive and editor-in-chief of ITN.

Here are the panel members’ public views on the BBC:

Ashley Highfield

“The BBC intends parking a tank on every local lawn and offering its version of hyper local news controlled from London W1A … It is also somewhat baffling that the BBC has become obsessed by the spoils of hyper-local news, particularly now, when their focus should be on everything but … (with the small matter of the charter renewal to consider).”

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the BBC needs to focus on what it’s brilliant at – creating world-class content – and stop trying to be all things to all people. The BBC sets the standard for national and international news. They simply don’t have the resources to be brilliant at everything.”

(From an open letter to the BBC, published in the Guardian, from February 2015)

Dawn Airey

“Perhaps the BBC should go back to having a couple of big broadcast channels, a couple of radio stations with a clearly defined remit and a reduced licence fee to support that.”

“And all the other things that it may do are still there but you have to pay for them. It allows other players to come into the market. This is one of a number of options … A lesser funded BBC, to keep it very honest, is almost inevitable.”

(From an interview with the Telegraph in August 2009)

Dame Colette Bowe

“I am an economist. There is a lot to be said for contestable funding on competition grounds ... The counter-argument is that once you start stripping away great chunks of funding you weaken the stability [of the BBC] … I think the challenge for the BBC, leaving aside political will to continue with a hypothecated tax, the challenge is going to be enforcing the payment for the licence fee,”

(From a speech at a Royal Television Society all party parliamentary group dinner in February 2014)

Stuart Purvis

“Who judges the performance of the BBC, that’s the issue that is really in debate now. You wouldn’t notice a lot of difference about the way the content is regulated [if Ofcom regulated the BBC] apart from this issue of impartiality. What you would be trying to resolve is who would give a running commentary on how is the BBC is doing, is it spending public money properly. You could hardly leave that to the body which is running the BBC, they may have a view on it. The select committee thought there should be a third body, sometimes known as Ofbeed. They called it the public service broadcasting commission. The debate is around is that part of Ofcom or is it to the side of Ofcom?”

(Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme in June 2015)

Alex Mahon

“You could say the licence fee itself creates a connection to consumers, and a feeling of collective ownership for the BBC. For us as a sector, when we know our biggest broadcasters are going to continue receiving funding and be paid that encourages them to take creative risks and means we know that our bills will get paid … We need our broadcasters to stay strong, both commercial and public service, to ensure they continue to invest in UK creativity.”

(Speaking at a Creative UK conference in April 2014)

Lopa Patel

“Clearly something must be done about governance at the BBC. The current view is to simply choose a new director general from outside the BBC bureaucracy in the hope that this individual will be able to rectify mistakes the organisation makes. However, the BBC may simply be too big an organisation for an individual to manage successfully given the dual demands of producing, high-quality, accurate journalism within a “light touch” management environment.”

(Writing in a blog post in November 2012)

Darren Henley

“There’s a school of thought that Radio 3 has attempted to popularise what it does by taking some of the techniques and programming styles that Classic FM has pioneered over the years and that is something that – were they to go headlong into doing that – would cause us a lot of concern. They have a huge amount of public money to enable them to do things we simply couldn’t afford to do and that’s what that public money is there for. For example, we have to be more selective about the number of live concerts we can afford to broadcast.”

(In an interview with the Independent in September 2012)

Andrew Fisher

Andrew Fisher is not on the record as commenting on the BBC. He is being brought in to advise on the digital challenges the BBC faces.


Jasper Jackson

The GuardianTramp

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