Embargo: 00:01 Friday 3 August 2007

Contact: Owen Williams 020 7219 8659


The House of Lords Communications Committee has criticised the present way that BBC Chairmen are appointed in a report published today. The Committee also recommends that any Chairman of the BBC Trust should be required to give a period of notice before leaving and joining another company.

The Committee say that the selection process used to appoint Sir Michael Lyons gave considerable opportunity for Ministers to influence the selection:

"Ministers appointed the selection panel, Ministers were allowed to change the shortlist of candidates and ultimately Ministers were able to choose between four candidates who passed the interview process."

Among the main recommendations of the Committee are that: -

  • in future the Chairman of the BBC Trust should be subject to a pre-appointment parliamentary hearing

  • the Chairman of the selection panel choosing the Chairman of the BBC Trust should not have a political background or be a civil servant

  • the selection panel should recommend only one name to Ministers who should be able to accept or reject that recommendation

  • the Chairman of the BBC Trust should be subject to a six month notice period

  • the provision in the BBC Charter for a non-executive Chairman to head the Executive Board should be scrapped

The Committee adds that it is no longer clear who is ultimately responsible for the BBC or what the role of the Chairman of the BBC Trust is. The new BBC Royal Charter states that the Chairman of the BBC is only an "honorary title". The Chairman of the BBC Trust, Sir Michael Lyons, has regulatory responsibilities towards the Corporation while also being expected to act as its Chairman.

The Committee notes that the actions of the BBC Trust during the recent "faked phone-in" scandal underline how much the role of Chairman has changed. The Chairman and Director-General no longer stand "shoulder-to-shoulder" as one former BBC Chairman defined the relationship. The Committee recommend efforts be made to bring greater clarity to the role of the Chairman of the BBC Trust.

Commenting Lord Fowler, Chairman of the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications, said:

"The independence of the BBC is of paramount importance to its viewers and listeners.

"Recent history shows that it is possible for the Government of the day to come into conflict with the BBC. Yet Government Ministers have considerable powers over the selection of the Chairman of the BBC.

"We think these powers should be limited. Parliament is the only undoubted representative of the licence fee payer and should have a greater role."

Notes to Editors

1. The report is published by The Stationery Office, The Chairmanship of the BBC, House of Lords Communications Committee, First Report of 2006/07, HL Paper 171.

2. The full report will be available shortly after publication at:

3. The members of the Committee who conducted the inquiry are:

Lord Fowler (Chairman)
Baroness Bonham Carter of Yarnbury
Lord Corbett of Castle Vale
Baroness Eccles of Moulton
Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick
Baroness Howe of Idlicote
Lord Inglewood
Lord King of Bridgewater
Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall
Bishop of Manchester
Lord Maxton
Baroness Scott of Needham Market
Baroness Thornton