BBC in Audit Trade-Off; Tories Hire Elstein to Review BBC Funding

22 May 2003

After much behind-the-scene politicking, the governors of the BBC emerged from their ivory tower on Wednesday to concede they would allow the National Audit Office to examine the corporation’s accounts on behalf of the hand that feeds it – the British taxpayer.

But there is a trade-off [or archetypal British fudge?] that will appease the collective ego of this august governing body. It goes something like this: The audit committee of the BBC’s board of governors will agree terms of reference with the NAO’s auditor general … then contract out the audit to the NAO … whose final report will be presented back to the committee … who will then proudly present it on a silver salver to parliament.

A spokesperson for the BBC described the plan as a “sensible way forward”. It is, however, almost certainly an interim measure pending renegotiation of the corporation’s Royal Charter, due for renewal in 2006.

• Meantime, the Tory [Conservative] parliamentary opposition party has retained former Channel 5 ceo David Elstein to chair an independent review of the BBC’s charter.

The review will formulate policy ideas, one of which – given Elstein’s previously declared views – could be the abolition of the compulsory licence fee paid to the BBC by all UK TV-owning households, irrespective of whether they watch any of the BBC’s several channels.

Elstein has also advocated a digital licence fee and a reformed licensing system based on a charge per TV set rather than per home.

Tory leader, Iain Duncan Smith, is believed to regard a reduced licence fee as a possible vote winner.

Data sourced from: and; additional content by WARC staff