The head of the BBC Trust says the broadcaster should be overseen by a new external regulator to make it clearer where the buck stops when things go wrong.
The Trust is responsible both for scrutinising BBC management and acting as the corporation’s cheerleader, roles a growing number of voices say contradict one another.
Last week MPs on the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee suggested abolishing the Trust and moving to a single board with a non-executive Chair, who would be known as the BBC Chairman.
Under their proposals, the BBC would then be monitored by a new “rigorous and independent” Public Service Broadcasting Commission which would also determine the level of public funding allocated to it and other broadcasters.
Addressing the Oxford Media Convention, Trust Chair Rona Fairhead said: “the Trust model has brought positive changes and has a lot of strengths. But it also has its challenges.”
Fairhead suggested it was possible to tweak the Trust and BBC Executive’s roles to try and clarify their respective obligations but said “the cleanest form of separation would be to transfer the Trust’s responsibilities for regulation and accountability to an external regulator.”
She added: “In this model, the BBC would need to establish a stronger unitary Board, with an independent chairman and a majority of non-Executive Directors.
“They would take sole responsibility for running the BBC and its corporate governance. They would have their own responsibilities to listen and respond to their most important stakeholder – the British public. And the Non-Executives would need to have access to independent research and advice.
“The external regulator would have responsibility for all matters of regulation and those matters of Licence Fee Payer representation which require a broader, more regulatory perspective.”
Addressing the MPs’ suggestion of a new Public Service Broadcasting Commission, Fairhead raised concerns that it could lack the ability to “exert real authority” and warned “carving up the licence fee may weaken the direct line of ownership and accountability that runs between the public and the BBC.”
She said the issue should be addressed as part of the BBC’s charter review