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British Goverment to Reshape BBC Governance 587

Posted by samzenpus
from the and-now-for-something-completely-different dept.
AtariAmarok writes "The British government recently announced plans to reshape how the BBC is governed.. The changes are said to scrap the system that has been in place for 77 years. Some are worried that the independence of the "Beeb" could be compromised, and Conservative lawmakers are worried that it does not allow for enough oversight (leaves it too independent?)."
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British Goverment to Reshape BBC Governance

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  • Oversight (Score:4, Interesting)

    by szlevente (705483) on Thursday March 03, 2005 @07:03AM (#11832316)
    Not enough oversight?? What about freedom of expression and speech?
    • Re:Oversight (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Psiren (6145) on Thursday March 03, 2005 @07:08AM (#11832339)
      What about freedom of expression and speech?

      Why do these discussions always come down to these issues? Did it occur to you that the oversight might have something to do with management of the BBC. That has little to do with free speech.
      • I don't know about "these discussions," but this discussion is most certainly about freedom of the press. Whether true or not it was the Hutton Report [bbc.co.uk] that started all of this. The BBC implicated Tony Blair's government in some shady dealings, and these actions are the big payback. They are bringing the BBC to heel.
        • Absolutely Wrong! (Score:3, Informative)

          by Martin Spamer (244245)
          Why let the facts get in way of some great rhetoric.

          This is the regular Charter renewal for the BBC. Happens every 10years or so.

          http://www.bbc.co.uk/info/policies/charter_revie w. shtml
      • Re:Oversight (Score:3, Insightful)

        by gerardlt (529702)
        Exactly. The oversight is in recognition that the British people are basically required to pay the license fee. Because they don't have a lot of choice, the government has to make sure that they (the people, not the government) are getting value for money, without getting directly involved and being accused of controlling the BBC.
    • by CdBee (742846) on Thursday March 03, 2005 @07:24AM (#11832399)
      The BBC as a public institution is bound by law and common custom to be representative of the people and to support/represent equality of religion/race/lifestyle/sexuality.

      The British Tory or Conservative party is roughly analogous to Republicans in the US in that it holds "traditional values", many of which conflict with the modern egalitarian ethic of the BBC.

      The British Right-wing, led primarily by tabloid newspapers such as the Daily Mail (politically somewhere to the right of Genghis Kahn..), has been leading an anti-BBC campaign for some time now as they don't want to see a state-run broadcaster "supporting" rights that they wish to abolish or diminish, such as equality of gay and straight relationships before the law, or equal attention in schools for minority faiths.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        You over complicate matters. Newspapers such as the The Sun don't like the BBC because they're owned by one News International, who in turn are owned by News Corp. which is run by one Mr. Robert Maxwell. It's no doubt just one huge coincedence that News Corp. just happens to own 36% of BSkyB, a commercial competitor to the BBC.

        The Daily Maul don't like the BBC because they don't like anything or any body, especially if they're a damn foreigner or under 55 years of age. The BBC don't show Come Dancing a
      • The BBC as a public institution is bound by law and common custom to be representative of the people and to support/represent equality of religion/race/lifestyle/sexuality.

        So you agree that there needs to be public oversight of the BBC. If the BBC was truly independent there would be no way to make sure that it kept to the standards you mention above.

      • I love this liberal usage of the word "traditional" by conservatives. Here in Canada it's currently being applied to the same-sex marriage debate. Personally I'm all for the traditional definition of marriage, but I would appreciate some help on the following two matters:
        1) My father-in-law still hasn't paid me the dowry. He seems to be dragging his feet.
        2) My wife is upity and needs some convincing to stay in the kitchen (except when I make other demands)!

        </removes-tongue-from-cheek>

        Honestly: wh
        • Honestly: what are traditional values? Some 1950's definition? An 1850's definition?

          This is an extremely useful question to actually ask a socially conservative person. They have essentially no answer to it. They don't know what they're wanting to return to; they just know that they're scared of where they think we're going. They can list things they like -- respect for authority and so on -- but try getting them to commit to a historical period when they'd have been happier, and they become furtive and s

  • Long time coming (Score:4, Informative)

    by moofdaddy (570503) * on Thursday March 03, 2005 @07:03AM (#11832319) Homepage
    Similar reform acts to the british media have been coming for a long time now. The first major whole hearted attempt came in the mid-80s. It is interesting because each time they get closer to actually getting it done but fall through in the end.

    I say cheers to the thought of an independent British Broadcasting company. I know the goverments regulation over them as been decreasing in recent years but the changes that are in the pipes have been a long time coming.
    • by Atrax (249401) on Thursday March 03, 2005 @07:12AM (#11832351) Homepage Journal
      "Independent" would be great, but media companies have to be funded somehow. Depending on your definition of independent, there may be issues.

      For instance, I've become quite aware of the pro-business stance of Australia's commercial channels recently, and the only conclusion I can come to is that they don't want to jeopardise their ad revenue by emphasising bad stories about business (HIH, Telstra etc..). The ABC, Australia's analogue of the BBC, has no such restraint and regularly skewers business, and to be perfectly fair to them they also do the same to government. I remember the BBC being similarly willing to skewer anyone regardless of any backroom diplomacy, as part of the Beeb's grand tradition. It would be a crying shame to see this change because of a change in oversight rules.

      However, from the article I see the Licence Fee funding for the BBC will stay in place, which would mitigate some of these concerns for my former home's broadcaster, thank the stars, however I'm sure we'll see some changes in how reporting is handled.
  • Punishment ? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mirko (198274) on Thursday March 03, 2005 @07:06AM (#11832324) Journal
    Is it because the Beeb has been so "reserved" when Blair engaged his Kingdom's soldiers into Iraq for some yet-to-be-defined reasons ?
    • Re:Punishment ? (Score:5, Informative)

      by REBloomfield (550182) on Thursday March 03, 2005 @07:10AM (#11832345)
      They weren't reserved; the Chairman spoke up and lost his job. Funny how no one has pointed out that he could do them for unfair dismissal now we know that the 45 minute was, in fact, as we knew all along, complete bollocks.
      • Re:Punishment ? (Score:2, Informative)

        by gowen (141411)

        Funny how no one has pointed out that he could do them for unfair dismissal

        He wasn't dismissed. He tendered his resignation, firmly believing it would not be accepted. He was wrong.

        the 45 minute was, in fact, as we knew all along, complete bollocks.

        The rubbishing of the 45 minute claim wasn't what upset the government. What upset the government was the suggestion that they -- and not the security services -- had inserted the claim into the dossier. This was what Gilligan suggested in his first broa

  • There goes the UK (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dj_cel (744926)
    Welcome aboard our UK brothers and sisters! Join us for a round of control the media! Seriously though, how can the BBC go from opening up archives to the public to becoming restrictive? Sounds like yet another assault by out friendly media conglomerates. No I'm not trying to troll, it seems that this was inevitable.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Sorry, lawmakers? Just because a politician is elected to the House of Commons does not make them a 'lawmaker'. Given the elected-dictatorship that is the British system when large majorities are held by the Government of the day, that description couldn't be further from the truth. Just look at the railroading of the current detention orders bill that's going on by this 'Labour' government.

    The only lawmakers are the ministers that put legislation forward, back benchers lucky enough to win the silly lotter
  • by NoMercy (105420) on Thursday March 03, 2005 @07:07AM (#11832329)
    Admitidly the BBC has had a few problems, but nothing that ammounts to more than poking the goverment (hey most people in england happen to think the goverment deserved a good poking for taking us to war on a lie).

    It's an asset which few other countries have, to turn it into a goverment properganda machine *shudder*, Gues we'd just have to start watching fox news for an unbiased opinion :)
    • by miu (626917) on Thursday March 03, 2005 @07:18AM (#11832381) Homepage Journal
      hey most people in england happen to think the goverment deserved a good poking for taking us to war on a lie

      Oh come on, like you never killed thousands based on a lie. Everyone makes mistakes.

    • to turn it into a goverment properganda machine *shudder*
      Have you even read the proposed changes? What among them think this is *more* likely to make the BBC a propaganda machine?
  • Licensing fee (Score:3, Interesting)

    by peterprior (319967) on Thursday March 03, 2005 @07:07AM (#11832331)
    Looks like they are keeping the licensing fee for another 10 years at least :|

    £104 ($180 ish?) a year just to watch TV :/
    • Re:Licensing fee (Score:2, Insightful)

      by MikeDX (560598)
      £104 to watch TV and listen to radio COMPLETELY LEGALLY AND ADVERTISEMENT FREE is a total bargain, plus the BBC websites, world service, BBC freeview digital.. Less than £10 a month for that much entertainment, with no crazy frog, and no annoying johnny vaughn is a fucking bargain. you may like spam with your TV. I DON'T.

      WE LOVE YOU BBC!!!
      • Re:Licensing fee (Score:2, Insightful)

        by GeckoUK (58633)
        Another thing to remember is that being forced to compete with the BBC ad free channels keeps the number of ads on ITV, channel 4 et al down to a bearable level.
    • Re:Licensing fee (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CProgrammer98 (240351)
      DOn't forget though, you get to watch AD FREE tv -That's gotta be worth the license fee surely.

      Try watching old beeb programs such as Yes Minister, or some of the dramas on UK gold, where they insert commercial breaks, it's just bizzare!
    • Re:Licensing fee (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Marlor (643698) on Thursday March 03, 2005 @07:38AM (#11832453)
      Don't complain. Here in Australia we pay for our ABC directly via taxes, and their funding has been drastically decreased over the last two decades (from to $41 per person per year in 1985 to around $20 per person per year now). As a result, they can't really afford to finance the production of local programmes, so they currently spend most of their TV budget on buying programmes from the BBC.

      Some of the purchases haven't made sense in recent years, either. They have been playing endless repeats of "Dead Ringers", which is bizarre, because most Australians have only a cursory knowledge of British politics, so I can't see the value in imitations of British politicians and newsreaders.

      So, a well funded BBC that can produce world-class entertainment is nothing to complain about. Slashing funding would just result in less profits in the long-term, and less local productions. The BBC is something to be proud of, and a couple of pounds per week is a bargain for what you receive.
    • Re:Licensing fee (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MosesJones (55544) on Thursday March 03, 2005 @08:06AM (#11832553) Homepage

      Others have said it, but so shall I.

      £104 to have the BBC in existance is well worth the money. Its reporting is superb, its comedy truly world-class and its drama often ground-breaking. I've lived and worked all around the world and there is no media organisation to compare with it in terms of breadth and honesty in its approach.

      The way the BBC holds politics to account in the UK is unrivialed in any country. Tony Blair is AFRAID to go onto the BBC because of the grilling he will get. Many countries claim they have free-speech, and yet none actually challenge their leadership in the same way as the Beeb.

      Blackadder, the Office, Little Britian, Newsnight, The Today Programme, Panorama etc etc etc.

      Put it this way, in the UK we see the bodies of our soldiers being returned, we see the damage the suicide bombers do, and the damage that allied bombs do. Even Sky News (prop: R Murdoch) has to be unbiased and serious about the news, Fox News (prop: R Murdoch) is considered to be a comedy programme.

      £104 to live in a country where Fox is a joke.... bargin.
  • Sure, George (Score:5, Informative)

    by gowen (141411) <gwowen@gmail.com> on Thursday March 03, 2005 @07:14AM (#11832363) Homepage Journal
    Some are worried that the independence of the "Beeb" could be compromised
    I haven't heard this much in the British media. In fact, these reforms seem likely to *increase* the Beeb's independence, since it adds another layer of distance between the Governors (now the BBC Trust) and the patronage of government.

    The Governors at present are appointed directly by the government -- and the last Labour and Tory administrations have made partly-political appointments; in the future, their replacements will be appointed by a more independent executive.

    I'd also just like to say this : as a License Fee payer, I believe firmly that the BBC works, and having travelled a fair amount, I've never seen a media organisation produce comparable amounts of quality output.
    • Re:Sure, George (Score:2, Informative)

      by szlevente (705483)
      Not sure how things are in the UK, but here in Eastern Europe, BBC is a synonym for objective, independent, realistic and incisive news reports. Haven't heard of anybody disliking it. FM radio stations that re-broadcast BBC programmes are bound to gain more listeners, just because of that.
    • Re:Sure, George (Score:5, Interesting)

      by aug24 (38229) on Thursday March 03, 2005 @07:35AM (#11832446) Homepage
      Somehow I doubt the members of the trust will be free from political influence... and being separated from the management of the day, do they not sound a little more like, say, OfBeeb*, than the 'cheerleaders' that the current Governers tend to be? I could see this being either good or bad, and based on my opinion of the current bastards ruining our country's good name at home and abroad, I'm inclined to be worried.

      My tuppence is: just because they've called it a 'Trust' doesn't mean anything. Remember Sir Humphrey Appleby: "Always do the difficult bit in the title. Then everyone will assume that the content must fulfil it". Alternatively, think of Paxman: "Why is this lying lier lying to me?". Then you'll understand the Labour Party.

      Justin.
      * Note for non-UK readers. We name our regulatory bodies along these lines: OfGas, Office for the Gas industry. OfWat, Office for the Water industry. For some reason the Rail watchdog's office isn't called OfRail though...
  • As of 12:05 GMT+1, it isn't on their front page.

    I've always found that the BBC presented fairly impartial reporting on most issues and didn't tend to get too centralised on particular countries or trends. I have BBC World at home and while it can be a bore at times listening to economics and politics in places I don't care about, at least I hear about it.

    I had BBC World when I lived in the USA and its coverage during the September 11th attack and after was markedly different from the US channels, particul
  • Crap reasoning (Score:2, Informative)

    by Cougem (734635)
    So this all comes about from the 'sexing up' of the War in Iraq coverage? What a shit reason. Wow, it failed once in 77 years of governance. That's a bloody good track record in my books.

    Just because the government are pissed off that it made them look worse, it was better than 99% of the other news sources, *cough*BSkyB*cough.

    It's just bitterness

    Anyone remember that massive page-sized advertisement the BBC took out in the newspapers with the peoples names which basically gave a finger to the government
  • by dr_strangeloveIII (703893) on Thursday March 03, 2005 @07:38AM (#11832452)
    Last year's license fee was worthwhile if only for this one documentary series. This is exactly the sort of intelligent programming which the current reforms are purported to encourage.

    Basically it was an account of how we arrived at the current climate of fear with our leaders exaggerating the dangers from almost entirely fictitious enemies. Interesting comparisons between the American neo-conservative ideologies and the beliefs held by Bin Laden et al.

    If you didn't get to see this because you are American or British but missed it then you should, the torrents are out there, seek and ye shall find.

    I'd doubt it will ever get shown in the US.
  • ... sent to me from the UK at my request, on Mordecai Vanunu, Israel's Nuclear Whisleblower [peaceheroes.com]

    I quote from this documentary, from an american anti-war protester, who professed to know nothing about Vanunu or his plight:

    "Why is our media that's supposed to be free and open not telling us and why is our government not letting us know this information if we're in the home of the free?"

    The BBC made and screened this documentary. It's an important issue that has been largely ignored by virtually every other m
  • How many free to air stations are there in London these days? From what I hear there are not that many? Don't you all have to pay a license fee for the TV as well, or did they do away with that silly idea...
    • licence fee still stands, but there are quite a few free-to-air stations, especially if you take into account free-to-air digital [freeview.co.uk]
    • by Richard Kirk (535523) on Thursday March 03, 2005 @09:03AM (#11832753)
      I remember when you used to have a radio licence in the UK. These were per household rather than per set, and I don't think they were ever enforced the way TV licences were. The thinking was that the general public should not have to pay for a rich man's toy, plus a bit of public enterprise would pump the UK valve industry. When radios became generally available, there was, fortunately a new toy - first 405-line TV, and then colour TV (there was a different licence for 625-line colour). We wanted a broadcasting company with independence, so the licence fees went to the BBC, but central government picked up the costs for collecting the licences.

      Now most people have a TV. The people who need TV most may be the poorest amongst us - Open University Students, parents, and carers, and so on. You can make a TV by putting a card in your computer. The TV detector vans do not work any longer (if they ever did, which I doubt). The licence costs more to collect then it is worth. The whole TV licence scheme is getting beyond its useful life. Basically, the only thing it has going for it is its long history.

      If you can come up with a reliable alternative that can give the BBC a secure income that does not depend on central government or market forces, then we would love to hear about it. But coming up with a general way of making being nice finiancially rewarding would be a bit of a social breakthrough.

  • by garethwi (118563) on Thursday March 03, 2005 @08:05AM (#11832545) Homepage
    A long time ago, the BBC was run by programme makers, and it was respected throughout the world for it's high quality programme making.

    Then, around the end of the eighties, the accountants took over, and the quality ethics was jettisoned in favour of cost cutting.

    Since then the BBC has slowly drifted towards the lower end of the market with programmes like Eastenders being shown 30 times a week, with an omnibus edition lasting all Sunday.

    The government charter should be changed in favour of bringing the programme makers back.
  • The Murdoch Angle (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nagora (177841) on Thursday March 03, 2005 @08:21AM (#11832597)
    This is how it works: if the BBC is producing stuff that competes with SKY's shit, Murdoch's press (Times, Sun etc) say it's unfair that a tax-funded company is competing with their (massively cross-subsidised, non-tax-paying) service.

    If the BBC is producing high-quality stuff that appeals to fewer people then Murdoch's press says that it's not giving value for money because no one is watching it.

    If the BBC were allowed to work freely then we'd have torrents of their programmes available by now. But that would be "unfair" on poor billionaires who want to charge us every time we watch a program or listen to our music in a different location.

    Bottom line is: Murdoch, like all his class, hates competition and wants the BBC closed down as soon as possible. And he has the money to buy the politicians; the hard part is convincing the public, even those that read the crap he spreads over their daily rags.

    Fuck the fucking load of fucking fuckers.

    TWW

  • by MullerMn (526350) <<ku.oc.nobrawerdna> <ta> <ydna>> on Thursday March 03, 2005 @08:33AM (#11832634) Homepage
    A lot of posts here, and so far nobody seems to have mentioned what I thought was the most encouraging part of the announcement, namely that the BBC has been told it is not to chase ratings but focus on quality programming.

    Hopefully, this means that the BBC will keep turning out more of the kind of programmes that have made its name into a badge of quality and stop it getting caught up in the race-to-the-bottom-of-the-barrel that Sky and the other commercial channels seem to be in.
  • by xiando (770382) on Thursday March 03, 2005 @08:43AM (#11832665) Homepage Journal
    What they really should do is to force BBC into releasing everything they have produced themselves that has been aired into a Creative Commons License! The People Payd for It, so the people should be allowed to use and share it! BBC should, by law, be required to let people share their shows on BitTorrent and other p2p networks!
  • by pandrijeczko (588093) on Thursday March 03, 2005 @08:53AM (#11832699)
    For the benefit of our /. overseas colleagues, the BBC broadcasts both multiple TV and Radio stations and does not obtain any income from advertising, instead being funded by the TV License - anyone in the UK who owns a TV (or any device for receiving TV signals) is expected to pay £126 (=$200 US approximately) per year for that service. The BBC can therefore be described as one of the last "public service" broadcasting services in the world.

    With that said, as a "true Brit", the BBC has always been a broadcasting service that I have always been very proud of. It has come in for a lot of criticism recently, perhaps rightfully so, as it's played the "ratings chasing" game of copying other channels and broadcasting far too much reality TV dross in favour of good drama and comedy shows - however, bringing the BBC under some governmental control means that the BBC will hopefully be forced to provide varied programming again, rather than "dumbed down TV" for the masses.

    In Britain, we can take great pride in the fact that world recognised shows like Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Red Dwarf, Dr Who, Monty Python's Flying Circus, etc exist because of the BBC - likewise the radio programming, specifically Radio 4 which originally did the HHGTTG radio shows and the adaptations of The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings, as well as numerous dramas and plays.

    I'm happy to continue paying my TV license for good quality programming and lack of advertising. All we need now are some more good comedy shows and I'll be happy...

    The final issue to mention is the BBC's web site which is of tremendously high quality. They put a lot of work into supporting media formats across multiple OSes (there's even some Linux support there!) and as someone who's trying to learn Spanish at the moment, there's a wealth of educational and language resource there also.

    In Britain, we probably don't have too many things to be proud of but the BBC is our best trademark to the world and something we should cherish.

  • by DrStrangeLug (799458) on Thursday March 03, 2005 @09:04AM (#11832761)

    Are they still planing to release their archives online ? And in this new DIRAC codec that they're working on ? I've got a nasty feeling that about 12 months from now the archives will appear in some awfull closed format.

    For my money I'd like to see their archives released in xvid and the radio archives in mp3. For that matter, why the hell are they doing online radio in Real Audio and not mp3 streams ?

  • TV Licence (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BugMaster ChuckyD (18439) on Thursday March 03, 2005 @10:53AM (#11833725)
    I'd be happy to pay the TV licence to keep the BBC the way it is, and I'm an American!

You know that feeling when you're leaning back on a stool and it starts to tip over? Well, that's how I feel all the time. -- Steven Wright

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