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David Puttnam

Lord Puttnam: BBC board should be independent of government

Lord Puttnam: BBC board should be independent of government

29 June, 2016

Lord Puttnam: BBC board should be independent of government

Oscar-winning producer also calls for digital levy on ISPs, and said the licence fee should be abolished as soon as possible

An inquiry chaired by Oscar-winning film producer Lord Puttnam has said appointments to the new BBC board should be entirely independent of government, and called for a digital levy to fund new public service content outside of the corporation.

The Future for Public Service Television report, published on Wednesday, said the licence fee should be abolished “as soon as is practically possible” and replaced with a more progressive funding mechanism via council tax or general taxation.

It also called on broadcasters to do much more to reflect the diversity of the UK, backing Lenny Henry’s calls for ring fenced funding for black, Asian and minority ethnic productions, and said it was time for the BBC to commit to Scottish and Welsh opt-outs of its main BBC1 news bulletins.

The report said appointments to the BBC’s new unitary board, which will replace the BBC Trust, should be ‘entirely independent from government’ and overseen by a new independent appointments body.

The government’s white paper on the BBC in May proposed that as many as half of the new board of up to 14 people would be government appointments, raising fears that the BBC’s independence could be jeopardised.

BBC director general, Tony Hall, told MPs on Tuesday that he wanted no more than five of a 14-strong BBC board to be government appointed non-executives.

The new pot of money for public service content would be available to museums, arts organisations and community groups paid for by a levy on the “largest digital intermediaries and internet service providers”.

It has echoes of Ofcom’s proposed “public service publisher” of nearly a decade ago which never got off the ground.

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The report said Channel 4 should not be privatised in full or in part and called on the government to end the uncertainty over its future.

Elsewhere, it said broadcasters such as Sky and Virgin Media should pay millions of pounds in ‘retransmission fees’ for the privilege of carrying public service channels such as the BBC and ITV, a long-running industry bone of contention.

Addressing other industry tensions, it said measures should be taken to ensure the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 continue to be given prominent places on electronic programme guides and on-demand platforms.

The inquiry chaired by Puttnam, former deputy chairman of Channel 4 and an influential voice in broadcasting, began last November in the midst of discussions over the BBC’s future.

Source: The Guardian 

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