OPINION: Iraq Dossier Clash Showed That BBC Governors Are No Anomaly

Article excerpt

The government has been living dangerously by starting to link the BBC's Royal Charter review with current events and the future of the governors.

Suddenly the revenge motive began to play. Until last week, culture secretary Tessa Jowell had distanced herself from a scandal that could yet sweep away some of the upper reaches of government. And then she gave way to temptation and, with others, dropped a broad hint that the future of the BBC government was linked to the findings of the Hutton inquiry.

It was a big mistake that made the government look like a bullying banana republic. We can't stop the BBC governors defending the editorial independence of the corporation, but we will exact our revenge.

By the weekend, following a stirring counterattack by BBC chairman Gavyn Davies, Jowell withdrew and said there was 'absolutely no question' of the review being influenced by the Gilligan affair. It was still a little unfortunate to have earlier given the impression that the Charter review might not be an entirely open-minded process. Yet, in one important sense, the case of the 'sexed-up' Iraqi dossier will, and should, influence the ultimate fate of the BBC governors.

It was more than possible for a sensible person to look at the Communications Bill and see the governors as a bit of an anomaly. If we are going to have a modern, transparent, converged regulator, why do we need to give such power and influence at the heart of the broadcasting system to a collection of the great and good? …