Embargo: Immediate Monday 15 October 2007

Contact: Owen Williams 020 7219 8659


Lord Fowler, Chairman of the House of Lords committee on Communications, today criticised the Government's response to his committee's report, The Chairmanship of the BBC.

In its original report the Lords' committee recommended that there should be greater clarity about the role of the chairman of the BBC; that the chairman of the BBC Trust should be subject to a six month notice period and that there should be a non compete clause; and that a new chairman should be subject to a Parliamentary pre-appointment hearing. The Committee said that the Chairman and Director General no longer stood 'shoulder to shoulder' as one former BBC Chairman defined the relationship.

Commenting on the Government's response Lord Fowler said:

"In its response the Government confirm that 'chairman of the BBC' is now an honorary title and the Trust and the Executive Board 'are required at all times to act separately and never as a single body'. We can now see some of the faults with this structure.

"At a time when the BBC is under strong attack and pressure from outside there is an urgent need for a united response - both to satisfy the public and to respond to questions of morale inside the organisation. Instead we have a separate and divided command. No other corporation or company is governed in this way. It is a fundamental fault at the centre of the BBC."

Commenting on the rejection of the proposal for Parliamentary scrutiny Lord Fowler said:

"The Government say that the Charter - which they have just agreed - does not give them the power to require a period of notice for a new chairman. They accept however that there should be 'a clear understanding ' about the length of the role. That understanding would be substantially reinforced if the new chairman was required to state this publicly before a Parliamentary committee.  Parliament can claim to be the real representative of the licence fee payer and therefore entitled to play a part in issues of this kind."

Lord Fowler added:

"The Lords select committee is now looking at the provision of news generally. We have taken evidence in Britain and in the United States. Our first report will be in the New Year. What is already clear on both sides of the Atlantic is that newspapers and television news programmes are under severe pressure. News operations are being cut back. The BBC should think very carefully before going down the same road. The provision of impartial news - both home news and overseas news - is the essence of public service broadcasting."

Notes to Editors

1. The House of Lords Communications Committee original report on the role of the BBC Chairman was published on 3 August 2007. It can be found here:

2. The Government response was published today as Command Paper 7236

For further details, copies of the government response or to request an interview with Lord Fowler please contact Owen Williams on 020 7219 8659.