Select Committee on BBC Charter Review Written Evidence

Memorandum by the Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union ("BECTU")

  1.  BECTU has already submitted evidence to the current inquiry into the Green paper. We note that this will be considered relevant to the extended inquiry without any need for resubmission.

  2.  Against this background of our earlier submission, we wish to submit some additional brief comments on some of the points raised in the extended inquiry.


  3.  We have a clear interest in the issue of the proposed move to Manchester and BBC decentralisation. Our views can be summarised as follows:

  4.  We support, in principle, an increased emphasis on production in the Nations and Regions. We believe such production should be genuinely rather than notionally based outside London ie using staff, freelances and facilities based locally rather than brought in from London. We accept, as a consequence of this that there will need to be a relocation of some resources from London to the Nations and Regions.

  5.  This represents a potentially large redeployment of the BBC's most important resource—its staff. In our view, the crucial issue is the manner in which any such redeployment is to be achieved. The transition to "a BBC which is less London-centric" should, in its implications for staff, be subject to a number of basic principles:

    —  Relocation should be voluntary rather than compulsory.

    —  The transition should be accomplished without net job losses for the BBC as a whole.

    —  The procedures and terms for any such relocation should be subject to full consultation with the relevant trade unions.

  6.  These issues are, in our view, not marginal but central to the BBC's ability to achieve its aim of a significantly increased level of activity in the Nations and Regions. The project will ultimately stand or fall on the Corporation's ability to redeploy its human recourses to achieve this. We believe that early agreement on the underlying principles for managing such a transition is therefore both desirable and necessary for the project's success. We hope such agreement can be achieved and that the Corporation can move forward to a more active role in representing the Nations and Regions of the UK.


  7.  The future role and development of the World Service was referred to in the Green Paper and we have a clear interest on behalf of our members working in this area.

  8.  Our view, in summary, is that we support the retention of the World Service as a Government-funded area of the BBC. We see no justification for reducing the number of vernacular languages it broadcasts in but would welcome the development of television as well as radio services.


  9.  We very strongly believe that the future of the BBC is as a producer and commissioner of programmes rather than solely as a broadcaster. We would particularly emphasise the Corporation's role as a producer—and would therefore query the heading in the call for evidence which poses the issue as "The BBC as commissioner versus broadcaster".

  10.  Some of our background arguments are set out in paragraphs 3-4 and 17-21 of our initial submission. We believe that the BBC's role as our benchmark public service broadcaster will become more not less relevant in the fragmented digital future and that such a role can be sustained only if the Corporation retains a critical mass of in-house production capacity. Additional arguments for a strong in-house production base in the digital future have been well set out in the recent report from the Work Foundation.


  11.  We believe that the BBC can better involve the public in its decision-making process through greater accountability and openness in its system of governance. Some useful proposals were put forward in the Green paper when discussing the operation of the proposed BBC Trust ie meeting in public; webcasting of meetings; publication of minutes/research; and publication of voting records. We believe that by demystifying proceedings in this way, Trust members could win greater public confidence.

  12.  We further believe that further consideration needs to be given to the balance and composition of the Board of Governors or of any future Trust. We favour a system in which Governors/Trust members would be more broadly representative of the country as a whole. Within any such system we specifically believe there should be some representation from among those who work in or for the BBC.


  13.  We look forward to the further progress of the Committee's Inquiry and to the publication of the Committee's findings.

September 2005

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