BBC Trust: write funding process into Charter

The BBC’s governing body has called for a “proper process” for setting the BBC’s funding to be included for the first time in the new BBC Charter.

Rona FairheadThe BBC Trust said that to protect the UK pubcaster’s independence the public should have “a formal say” in setting the BBC’s funding in the future, and that the process should be “fairer, more transparent, and more accountable”.

“The public strongly supports the independence of the BBC,” said BBC Trust chairman Rona Fairhead. “As the BBC’s funding is an important part of that independence, funding decisions need to be made on a fair and transparent basis.”

“In future we want the process to be put on a much more formal footing, including involving the public in decision-making and building these requirements into the charter. We will be urging the government to include these changes in the coming months.”

The Trust said that one of its key responsibilities is to protect the BBC’s independence – encompassing editorial, creative, strategic, operational, as well as financial matters.

“Over the current charter period there has been a mounting concern about the BBC’s financial independence. Indeed, many would argue that financial independence is a primary underpinning for the independence of the BBC,” said the Trust.

Last year it was widely understood that the BBC licence would increase in line with inflation as part of a July agreement with the UK government, in which the BBC agreed to foot the £600 million (US$855.9 million) bill for the free licence fee for over-75s.

However, in October culture secretary John Whittingdale threw that apparent resolution into doubt, commenting that the future of the licence fee remains “an open question”.

“What happened in July was not the licence fee settlement,” he said at the time. “We’ve made it quite clear that the decision as to the future level of the licence fee is connected with charter review, where we are having a full public consultation in which everybody is invited to express a view.”