Government orders new panel to conduct thorough review of the BBC

Culture secretary John Whittingdale announces a new board to examine every area of the Corporation's output, including whether it should be chasing ratings

A bad week for the BBC may have got a whole lot worse after the Government announced it was setting up an advisory board to scrutinise every aspect of the Corporation’s work.

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Culture secretary John Whittingdale (below) has ordered the panel to carry out a fundamental review of the BBC’s entire operation as it gears up to finalising the details of its Royal Charter.

Eight broadcasting grandees have been appointed to the board, including former Channel 5 chief executive Dawn Airey who has called in the past for the BBC licence fee to be cut and for the Corporation to charge for its online content.

Other figures on the panel including Dame Colette Bowe, a former chairwoman of the regulator Ofcom who last year suggested that BBC funding should be shared with other broadcasters.

In a speech to the Royal Television Society in February 2014 she said that licence fee funding should be “contestable” with other media companies in order to create “competition, dynamism and innovation”.

The BBC’s Royal Charter expires at the end of 2016 and the appointment of the panel comes at a crucial time, with the Corporation in the middle of negotiations over what will essentially determine its future funding. The new advisory board will meet six times a year, the Government said, and would offer “oversight” on charter renewal.

Already the BBC has conceded ground on the subject of licence fees for over 75s and has agreed to shoulder the financial burden over time.

In a statement Whittingdale said: “Each member of the independent advisory group brings individual skills, experience and expertise.

“Together they will contribute to the oversight of the government’s review of the BBC royal charter. I look forward to working with them on this important issue.”

It has also been reported today that a government green paper is due to be published on Thursday which will question the BBC’s role, including whether it should stop chasing high viewing figures and whether the BBC should be regulated by Ofcom and not the BBC Trust.

The green paper will examine whether the BBC website should be scaled back and whether the Corporation should make more fewer populist programmes such as The Voice in a bid to chase ratings, according to the Sunday Times.

Green papers are subject to public consultation and will be followed by a white paper which is traditionally the basis for a bill to be put to a vote in the House of Commons.

Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt told The Andrew Marr Show that the Government’s review was an unpatriotic attack on what he said was a “great British institution”.

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