June 18, 2024

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Ofcom chair calls for BBC licence fee review

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The head of Britain’s media regulator, Ofcom, has said the government should look again at how the BBC is funded, and called for the national broadcaster to strengthen its governance and complaints mechanisms.

Michael Grade, who had served as the chair of the BBC, described the licence fee that funds the BBC as a “regressive tax” that meant he would pay no more than a “single mom with three kids in a rented room”.

The former ITV and Channel 4 boss added that one of the “big” questions for the next BBC charter review was whether the BBC should be allowed to compete for advertising revenue against commercial broadcasters, which are already seeing a sharp decline in this income.

The BBC needed to be more “independent and transparent” in its approach to how complaints are handled, he added, something that Ofcom has “pushed quite hard”. The government is expected to overhaul the BBC’s complaints system as part of a forthcoming review.

In an interview with the Financial Times after his first year at Ofcom, Grade said that the next chair of the BBC should be “more high profile” in representing the position of its board. The government is interviewing a shortlist of about 10 candidates for the role, including acting chair Dame Elan Closs Stephens and former BBC non-executive director Samir Shah.

“The board does need to be much more publicly open about what they think about some of the stuff that becomes controversial. We hardly ever hear from the board and that leaves a vacuum.”

Grade was picked as chair of Ofcom after Boris Johnson, who was at the time prime minister, was overruled in his attempt to appoint Daily Mail boss Paul Dacre. Grade was a Tory peer but has since dropped his affiliation given his role at the independent regulator.

Political allegiances had no bearing at Ofcom, he said. “I spent my whole life in broadcasting…

2023-11-12 06:23:48

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