NUJ welcomes MPs' recommendation for staff rep on BBC board
2 August 2016
The NUJ has welcomed a MPs' committee report which called for a staff representative on the new unitary body to oversee the BBC.
The union also shares the cross-party culture, media and sport select committee's concerns over the appointment of Rona Fairhead, the chair of the discredited BBC Trust, as chair of the board. The report said:“The process of appointing the chair should have been via an open and orderly public competition, as is standard in the public sector and as the government has proposed for other members of the board."
The committee said "the freedom of the BBC from undue political interference must be defended"; the NUJ believes this must be robustly upheld".
It has been a long-standing policy of the NUJ for staff representation on the BBC board. The union believes many of the recent problems and scandals, financial and otherwise, experienced by the corporation could have been prevented if staff had been able to have a voice. The committee's report said: "The BBC may wish to consider including a staff representative as one of its non-executive nominees, as the Prime Minister has suggested in connection with private sector company boards."
The MPs also raised concerns over plans to use £8m of licence fee money to fund 150 journalists to be employed by local papers to report on courts, councils and other democratic institutions. The report said:
"The BBC’s attempts to support the gathering of local news are to be welcomed. But much of the detail remains vague and unclear. We are unconvinced that the Local Public Sector Reporting Service can be made to work in such a way that it neither subsidises companies that are profitable, nor benefits those that have cut back on local journalism while their competitors have chosen to continue to cover court hearings and local council meetings, but look forward to detailed future proposals."
The NUJ welcomed other recommendations including:
- BBC Scotland to proceed with a “Scottish Six”, a news programme with a running order of Scottish, UK and international stories based on news merit, drawing on all the BBC’s facilities and broadcast from Scotland.
- The Gaelic channel MG Alba channel to have parity with S4C in Wales.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:
"There is a lot to support in the select committee's report, particularly the recommendation for a staff member on the board. We have long argued that many of the recent scandals at the BBC were caused by the management and the governance of the corporation being out of touch with the programme makers and staff on the ground. We also agree with the committee that the BBC needs a strong, independent board led by a chair who is willing and able to stand up to BBC executives, when necessary, and to anyone, ministers or otherwise, who attempt to undermine the independence of the BBC."