Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

New Trust Chair Rona Boasts Plans for Beeb -- Now It's Time for Action; MEDIA ANALYSIS

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

New Trust Chair Rona Boasts Plans for Beeb -- Now It's Time for Action; MEDIA ANALYSIS

Article excerpt

Byline: Roy Greenslade

RONA Fairhead, new chair of the BBC Trust, last night called for "a proper public debate" about the future of the BBC, rather than "one conducted by a small elite". In her first speech since taking the post, the former Financial Times Group chief executive did not explain how she intends to reach out to the public, but we must believe she has a plan.

The corporation needs to gain public support ahead of the coming charter review, after a couple of years of overlapping controversies and consequent damaging publicity.

It faces more discomforting headlines once Dame Janet Smith concludes her review into its culture and practices during the Jimmy Savile years. But, that aside, it would appear that the Director-General, Lord (Tony) Hall, has steadied the ship. Fairhead, like Hall, is aware that there is still a great deal to accomplish if the BBC is to secure its future. "I'm not someone to gloss over the BBC's faults, problems or challenges," she said, "I see it as part of my job to identify and pursue them."

The first challenge she identified, the new competitive environment in which Britain's public service broadcaster must operate, is undoubtedly the most significant of all. The BBC may be the UK's largest media organisation, but we live in a globalised media world in which the digital revolution has seen the birth of mighty US-based conglomerates such as Google, Amazon and Apple. People communicate not only with each other, but also with transnational communities, through Facebook and Twitter.

But how should the BBC react to commercial pressures? There is no easy answer, as Fairhead has begun to discover. For example, the declining profitability of newspapers, which has necessitated industrywide cuts, has become the locus of a dispute between publishers and the BBC's news division, not least its head of news, James Harding. …

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