BBC Asks Government for Ten-Year Renewal Period

30 June 2004

The BBC's current operational term should be renewed for another ten years when its present incumbency ends in 2006.

This is the lynchpin of its submission to the UK government, along with a suggestion that the archaic framework of a Royal Charter under which it currently operates be changed to a structure more in keeping with the 21st century; a publicly owned company, perhaps.

The BBC's proposals will be considered alongside those from other interested parties: rival media, lobby groups and the general public.

Culture, media and sport secretary Tessa Jowell has constantly assured that the government maintains an open mind on the BBC's structure and operations.

But many politicians, constitutionalists and consumer groups fear the Blair administration will seize any opportunity to tame the BBC's fierce independence which collided headlong with the government's will over the war on Iraq.

The BBC insists that continuation of public funding is essential if it is to deliver the benefits of the digital age its to ultimate funding body -- the UK taxpayer. It argues that the digital grail cannot be left to free-market forces alone, a route that could lead to neglect of key areas.

But in a nod to its highly vocal commercial critics (whose view of a free market excludes a BBC presence), the state-owned broadcaster said it was conducting a review of its business operations, notably internet and magazine and book publishing activities.

According to recently appointed BBC chairman Michael Grade, the view of the broadcaster's board of governors is that "imperial ambitions are a thing of the past."

The BBC was plunged earlier this year into its worst-ever crisis, following the suicide of Dr David Kelly, a government scientist who was the source of an allegedly false BBC radio report on the now-discredited Iraqi threat.

But opinion polls currently reveal that a majority of Britons find the BBC's stance on this issue more credible than that of the government, which many see as chained to the economic pocket of the Bush administration.

The former BBC chairman and director-general both fell on their swords as a result of the politically inspired furore.

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff