Lords: BBC Should Form Partnerships in ‘Open and Generous Manner’

The BBC should form partnerships with the commercial sector “in an open and generous manner,” the House of Lords Communications Select Committee has said this week.

In its report on the Charter review process, the committee said that they BBC should be encouraged to form partnerships where there was a “clear benefit to the licence fee payer.”

One of the key recommendations of the report was for the BBC’s regulator to hold the BBC to be held to account to through a “clearer, simplified framework.” The regulator should conduct a root and branch review of the BBC’s accountability framework with the aim of making it “simpler and more transparent.” 

BBC Trust chairman Rona Fairhead said last month that the Trust has been encouraging the BBC to explore partnership initiatives and “open up more and be a better partner” .

One of the other functions of the regulator would be to take “a robust line” in monitoring any “mismatch between service licence and output” to prevent the BBC becoming too dominant in its share of popular radio programming.

Looking at partnerships with the commercial sector, the report said:  “We recommend that where the BBC does form partnerships it should do so in an open and generous manner, recognising its unique position as a national broadcaster to carry material created by others or to amplify their activities.”

The report quoted News Media Association chairman Ashley Highfield in which he said that there was no deficit in local news, the sector “already employs thousands of journalists and is the only reliable source of independent and trusted local news across the UK,” he said.

The report continued: “Some witnesses called for greater partnership in the field of news. GMG stressed the importance of commercial news brands providing public value to a local, national and global audience,”. 

“We received evidence that the current Public Purposes were too broad. The Guardian Media Group (GMG) told us “they are so broad as to effectively provide the BBC with the authority to act as it chooses, acting more as a mission statement than metrics for analysis.”

“We support the principle of an accountability framework. However, we conclude that the current accountability system of mission statement, unique Public Purposes, Purpose Remits, Purpose Priorities and very detailed service licences is far too complex.

“This complexity makes the practical interpretation and assessment of delivery difficult. We recommend a much simpler and more transparent approach.”