The BBC’s own reporting on the issue focused mainly on the topic of the licence fee although the report covered many additional subjects.
The committee’s conclusions are as follows:
- In the short-term there is currently no better alternative to the licence fee but as a minimum the licence fee must be amended to cover catch-up television as soon as possible.
- Criminal penalties and enforcement for non-payment of the licence is anachronistic and out of proportion with responses to non-payment for other services. However, decriminalisation needs to be accompanied by measures to prevent increased evasion.
- A broadcasting levy on all households is the preferred alternative but a degree of subscription for BBC services could be a possibility in the future.
- The BBC has tried for too long to provide “something for everyone”: it should reduce provision in areas where others are better placed to deliver excellence and better value for money, and make bigger, braver decisions on its strategy.
- The BBC should seek to do more in partnership with others. It should also support local media through extending the indie quota to include local news.
- The BBC must demonstrate transparency to eliminate suspicions of cross-subsidy of its commercial work if it is to produce content for others.
- The BBC Trust should be abolished and new arrangements made for the governance, regulation and oversight of the BBC.
The BBC should have a unitary board with a non-executive Chair, who would be known as the BBC Chairman.
- A new rigorous and independent Public Service Broadcasting Commission (PSBC) should be established with the role of scrutinising the BBC’s strategic plan, assessing the BBC’s overall performance, and determining the level of public funding allocated to the BBC and others. A small amount of public funding should made available for other public service content priorities.
- The National Audit Office (NAO) must now be given unrestricted access to the BBC to provide assurance that the Corporation is spending money wisely.
One proposal included in the report which will no doubt be of interest to many of our readers is that OFCOM should replace the BBC Trust as “the final arbiter of complaints about BBC content, including matters of impartiality and accuracy”. The report notes that:
“Our inquiry did not examine the way complaints about BBC’s output are handled in any depth but a significant amount of correspondence that we receive as a Committee relates to the BBC and its output and also the way complaints are handled by the BBC and the Trust. Given the importance of the BBC’s impartiality, it is nearly always the case that it is inappropriate for us to intervene in individual cases. Nevertheless, a common theme we have noted is that members of the public who believe they have reason to complain are often dissatisfied that their complaint or point of view has not been considered independently. For many the BBC Trust is essentially part of the BBC and as such the Corporation is seen as a self-regulating body and there is great dissatisfaction that there is no option for an impartial adjudication of a complaint about the BBC by an independent body. “
BBC Watch submitted evidence to the committee on the issue of the BBC complaints system based on the wealth of information provided by our readers over the years.
The report states:
“We recommend that Ofcom become the final arbiter of complaints over BBC content including matters concerning impartiality and accuracy, but that complaints should be considered by the BBC in the first instance. Ofcom should be given additional resources for taking on this role which are commensurate with the responsibility and estimated workload. We believe this transfer of responsibility will, if anything, strengthen the independence of the BBC, and also make the complaints process simpler, and appear more transparent and fair.”