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Author Topic:  The public have a right to know how the next Chair of the BBC Trust is chosen  (Read 12048 times)


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Of course the public have a right to honesty, integrity and open information about the appointment of the Chair of the BBC Trust. That person is supposed to represent you and me. But in reality, they do not.

I have spent many hours in the last few weeks trying to find out, here is my last reply.


Dear Sue Gray,

I am writing to you in my capacity as chair of the Radio Forum, which
represents thousands of BBC radio listeners. As you are the senior Public
Servant with ultimate responsibility of oversight of making and managing
public appointments, I feel you are the only person who can deal with my

I am copying below a correspondence chain which explains my position.

The appointment of the next Chair of the BBC Trust will be of paramount
importance to the future of the BBC as a public service broadcaster. The
next Chair of the Trust will need to demonstrate an ability to represent the
public and inspire trust, through integrity and a clear unconflicted

It cannot be understated that Lord(Chris) Patten attracted intense public
criticism during his time as Chair and that brings the selection process
which enabled his appointment under scrutiny.  .

It has been of considerable concern that Lord Browne was appointed to the
interviewing panel, despite sharing business connections and many mutual
interests with Lord Patten. This was not publicly disclosed.

It is also noted and publicly perceived that Lord Patten's appointment was
authorised by Jeremy Hunt and David Cameron on political grounds. Mr
Cameron's, Chief of Staff , Ed Llewellyn supported Patten's appointment as a
previous employee of Lord Patten for many years, the influence seems clear.

The Policy Exchange set up a study as part of its Constitutional Affairs
project to investigate concerns about the way the appointment process
operates.This research noted that Lord Patten was appointed on political
grounds The report was published last year. At the head of its' report it
singled out the appointment of the Chair of the BBC Trust

After extensive research one of the  main recommendations concerns
transparency.It recommended that the following information be disclosed as
standard and treated as a matter of public information..

This includes;

" Names of any commercial search agencies employed,

 Names of sift panelists (if applicable),

 Names of interview panelists."

I would, therefore, be grateful if you provide that information. And how the
selection panel was decided.

It is also important to consider that the panel members selected are able to
assess the candidate as able to deliver the Seven Principles Of Public Life,
enshrined in the appointment process. They will need to be proven to have
those principles themselves. And that there is no conflicting of interest

It is, therefore a matter of public trust that there is full and open
disclosure of the process of selection and that must include the identity of
the panel members being disclosed at an early stage to avoid any suggestion
of inappropriate influence.

The composition of the panel should also be seen to reflect some diversity
of demographic. Another concern reflected by the Policy Exchange research
project. It has to be noted that the panel that selected Lord Patten, did
not fulfill that aspiration in any way. It must be noted that Jonathan
Stephens PS to DCMS at the time, was the subject of  some criticism for
failing to keep accurate official records and handle information as openly
as possible during the last licence fee settlement and the BSkyB bidding

It cannot be understated that public trust, not only concerning the BBC, but
extending to all publicly funded institutions , is experiencing considerable
crisis.That trust can only be repaired by  evidence of willful transparency
and integrity of communication with the public. That  communication must be
trusted and understood.

Thankyou for your time and patience, I hope that you can give very serious
thought to the issues that I have raised on behalf of the public that you
serve and which I voluntarily represent.

I look forward to your reply

Yours sincerely,

Tamsin Vincent

BBC Radio Forum.



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Indeed the public does, they will essentially be responsible for the guardianship of public service broadcasting in this country and will need to ensure it's in a fit and proper condition to serve future generations.


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So it is that one of the three people chosen to help appoint the new Chair of the BBC Trust earned himself this description from Political commentator Peter Oborne; 'Heywood is a perfect manifestation of everything that has gone so very wrong with the British civil service over the past 15 years'.  SO reassuring.

Well at least there seems to be some element of openess developing?

Meanwhile Victoria Derbyshire attempted today to get to the bottom of the changes to the T&Cs of the Chair advertisement with Harriet Harman and Sir Christopher Bland, note how rude Mr. Bland is, subtly attempting to paint Harriet as a conspiracy theorist and then suggesting Diane Coyle is the ideal candidate, seemingly on the basis that it's the easiest thing to do.  Good grief!


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The letter in full,

"Dear Mr Javid and Ms Gray

Investigation required into Diane Coyle's alleged abuse of her position and alleged role in covering up sexual abuse at the BBC

We write on behalf of the BBC Radio Forum, a national message board for BBC licence fee payers; and the Taxpayers' Alliance, which campaigns for better value from all those in the public sector who are spending taxpayers' money. We represent many thousands of listeners and viewers who have petitioned the BBC about various management failures in recent years. We believe we represent a cross-section of licence payers' views.

We wish to raise the following three points:

1. First, we are very concerned about the appointment process of the next chair of the BBC Trust. The stated aim of the BBC Trust is to act in the best interests of those who fund the BBC and the salaries of its staff - licence fee payers - yet nothing about the ongoing application process has been remotely satisfactory so far.

Not only has the Department for Culture, Media and Sport hired headhunting firm Saxton Bampfylde at considerable public expense to encourage certain candidates to apply for the chairmanship, it turns out that the wife of the BBC director-general works for this company, raising a serious potential conflict of interest issue. Can you please comment on this matter?

More recently, it has also been reported that the application deadline for the Trust role has been extended to 27 June. Can you please explain why? Furthermore, it has been made clear that the obligation of the chairman will be reduced from the current 'three to four' days per week to only two days per week as necessary, raising questions about how seriously this role is now regarded. Can you please explain why? And would a chairman working for only two days per week still be paid 110,000 per year?

Finally, in relation to the appointment process, we have attempted on at least half a dozen occasions to ask the DCMS which three people are on the interview panel for the Trust role and how they were picked. Each time we have been rebuffed. This is the opposite of transparent and is completely unacceptable to the public. Can you please provide us with this information?

2. Our second query relates to the acting chairman, Diane Coyle. On 23 June Ms Coyle made a speech at the London School of Economics outlining her vision of the BBC in the 21st Century. Why was Ms Coyle allowed to do this? Since she has herself applied to succeed Lord Patten as the permanent Trust chairman, this speech was arguably a pitch for her own aspirations, giving her an unfair advantage over other candidates. Not only that, but Ms Coyle used the BBC Trust press office to circulate the text of her speech in advance of it being delivered, almost certainly guaranteeing the widest possible coverage in all national newspapers on 24 June. Her use of this publicly-funded press office to give her such a platform cannot be right on any level. We would urge you to investigate on whose authority she made this speech, whose permission she sought, and whether she has broken any BBC Trust rules by using the press office to advertise the speech.

3. Our third point also relates to Ms Coyle and her alleged involvement in covering up at least one major BBC scandal regarding the apparent sexual abuse of children on BBC premises in the 1970s.

You will recall that the BBC spent 3 million of licence fee money on the Pollard Review, which investigated why Newsnight abandoned its investigation of Jimmy Savile in December 2011. After the Pollard Report was published, in December 2012, it emerged that its chairman, Nick Pollard, had admitted excluding from his findings key evidence presented to him by senior BBC executive Ms Helen Boaden which proved that the BBC's top executive, the former director-general Mark Thompson, was informed in December 2011 that Newsnight had discovered that Savile was a sexual predator; that Mr Thompson was aware that the programme's report into this scandal had been axed; and yet that Mr Thompson still allowed the BBC to broadcast tribute programmes to Savile that same month.

Despite Mr Pollard's admission - which was captured in a taped telephone call - that he knows his report is inaccurate and misleading because in it he wrongly cleared Mr Thompson of any knowledge of rumours of Savile's sexual abuse of children, the Pollard Report remains unchanged. Ms Coyle was present at a specially convened BBC Trust meeting on 11 December 2013 at which all of the above evidence was discussed and the tape recording listened to. Ms Coyle was one of four Trust members who decided the status quo was acceptable and that there was no need ensure that the Pollard Report was corrected to reflect the full facts. Essentially, therefore, it appears it was decided by Ms Coyle that this issue was irrelevant.
As a result, the Pollard Report still remains unchanged and is an unreliable document.

How can it be irrelevant that the head of a 3 million BBC inquiry knowingly withheld key evidence from his report and then admitted as much? Given that this was ultimately about the sexual abuse of children, Ms Coyle should examine her conscience carefully and the DCMS should examine whether she is a fit and proper person to become the BBC Trust chair. She has colluded in allowing vital facts to remain hidden from public view in this most serious of matters, just as Lord Patten did.

In April we wrote to you requesting that the process of choosing a successor to Lord Patten be transparent in order to help restore the battered reputation of the BBC and BBC Trust. Please listen to us - who represent those who actually pay the licence fee - and ensure that this process is transparent. The BBC and the BBC Trust in their current form are on borrowed time. We would be amazed if the DCMS were not in a position to take note of what we have to say.

We look forward to receiving your response.

We have copied this letter to John Whittingdale MP; Nicholas Kroll and Jon Zeff of the BBC Trust; Diane Coyle; and Lord Hall. We will be placing this letter in the public domain.

Yours sincerely,

Tamsin Vincent (BBC Radio Forum)
Jonathan Isaby (Taxpayers' Alliance)"


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An excellent letter Tiger, and it is obvious that it has taken up much of your time compiling it, for which you deserve some credit and thanks from all who are concerned about these issues and, in some cases, wrote to the BBC themselves expressing their views.  Very well done.  You have covered all the important, relevant points succinctly and straightforwardly.  A quick response is needed which I hope will be forthcoming very soon.


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Thankyou Rita.

I hope it makes a difference.

I will post my very long chain of emails with 3 different Government departments, asking for transparency and integrity tomorrow. It is quite depressing.


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An excellent letter Tiger, and it is obvious that it has taken up much of your time compiling it, for which you deserve some credit and thanks from all who are concerned about these issues and, in some cases, wrote to the BBC themselves expressing their views.  Very well done.  You have covered all the important, relevant points succinctly and straightforwardly.  A quick response is needed which I hope will be forthcoming very soon.

I echo your words and thoughts Rita.  It's interesting to look at the comments on the Press Gazette - who published more of the letter than the mail - to see, bizarrely, some people are less willing to address the important issues in the message than they are keen to attack the messengers?

Very much looking forward to the DCMS reply.


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There are only 3 comments?

I did try and post yesterday, but the technicals on the site are a nightmare.


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Here is the DCMS reply. There are certainly propriety issues that have not been answered in this reply.

"Dear Tamsin, Jonathan,


Thank you for your letter to the Secretary of State, dated 1 July, concerning the BBC Trust Chair appointment. I am responding on behalf of the Secretary of State, as the policy official with responsibility in this area. You ask a number of questions.


Lord Halls wife is employed in the schools division of the executive search company Saxton Bampfylde.   Saxton Bampfylde put in place clear protocols in advance of being contracted by DCMS to ensure that Lady Hall would at no point have any contact with the process. This arrangement was approved by the Independent Public Appointments Assessor, Mark Addison, who is overseeing the process.


Further, you inquire about the extension to the deadline for applications, by a period of one week, to 27 June.  This is fully in-line with the Commissioner for Public Appointments guidance. You also ask about the role specification, in which it was stated that suitable candidates able to commit to a lesser time commitment than 3-4 days per week would be considered.  It must be made clear that in both respects, this was to guarantee that the broadest possible field of high quality candidates, from a diverse range of backgrounds, was encouraged to apply.  This underlines how seriously the role of the Chair of the BBC Trust is regarded by Government and Ministers commitment to securing a wide field and, from that field, the right candidate. 


On the question of remuneration, which you also touch on in your letter, the specification sets out that this would be up to 110,000 per annum.  And as you will be aware, the salary of the Chair of the BBC Trust is determined by the Secretary of State.


On your question concerning the selection panel for this role, you may be aware that the Department published the panel line-up, on 26 June, on our website:


As is set out on the website, each person has specific skills and experience which they bring to the panel, and the composition of the panel, and their selection, as with the entire appointment process, are in accordance with the Commissioner for Public Appointments code of practice.


With reference to your previous correspondence to the Department, as was set out in our last response to you on 26 June, this is being treated as a Freedom of Information request. Our response will be with you by the 20 working-day deadline for such requests Tuesday 8 July.


You mention the recent speech given by the Acting Chair, Diane Coyle, at the LSE.  It is the role of the BBC Trust Unit to support the Acting Chair in discharging her responsibilities.  As such, the question of whether there were any propriety issues would be a matter for the Trust and we understand you have already raised these questions with them directly.


Finally, you touch on the Acting Chairs involvement in the Pollard Inquiry.   As set out in the Trusts previous press statements, Trustees listened to the recording in question, and considered that it did not undermine the conclusions of the Pollard report, which they believed was an independent, fair and thorough examination of the issues raised.   


Given that the process to appoint the next Chair of the Trust is ongoing, it would not be appropriate for the Department, or Ministers, to comment or speculate on the suitability of specific possible candidates.  Crucially, all appointments will made in a fair, open and transparent way, and will be based on merit. 


With kind regards,


Henry  "

Better get on with my reply. I completely understand that this is probably regarded as a toxic role now. That is the fault of Chris Patten and Dianne Coyle, they failed to step up to the mark and much worse failed to represent the public and the staff of the BBC, AGAINST management abuse. But the last thing that we want now is some political appointment that will engineer the end of the BBC, to suit the Tory party or a lame duck(Dianne Coyle) who will continue on a road that will have the same result.

I actually think the salary is too low. The right person to run the Trust and decide it's future needs to have integrity and honesty and a proven regard for public service broadcasting the price for that should be negotiated.

There are more questions than answers here.

« Last Edit: July 04, 2014, 10:14:59 PM by Tiger »


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 Well , if you have not seen this, it is worth reading.

Seems Lord Coe is going to get the chair of the Trust, stuff the fact the chair is supposed to represent the public and protect a public broadcaster, No it seems they have to represent George Osborne and that will mean that the BBC will no longer wil be lsafe as a public broadcaster

Anyway in long line of communication I have sent this to the appointing departments.



Please refer to previous correspondence.

The appointment of the next Chair of the BBC Trust is of immense importance
to the future of the BBC.  It is most important to the public served by BBC
now and in the

It is the absolute duty and responsibility of those in public office who are
charged with this appointment  to act with integrity to ensure a fair and
transparent process and to select purely on merit.

I therefore insist that, as a high priority, the following issues are

So it is of considerable  concern to read a blog posting by the BBC's
Economics editor Robert Peston,  a journalist with much authority, on the
selection of a new Chairman of the BBC Trust.
In his posting Robert Peston describes Lord Coe as a "virtual shoo- in" to
replace Lord Patten. He describes the appointment process as cumbersome and
a hurdle that the prime minister and chancellor will help Lord Coe to

Mr Peston reports that he has been informed by a very senior member of the
Government that Lord Coe is a clear front runner and a "shoo-in. It seems
that George Osborne is the source for Robert Peston's comments. This has not
been denied by either Peston or George Osborne.
This conclusion can only have been reached by Mr Osborne on receiving that
assurance from the selection panel.

1. How was that information disclosed to Mr Osborne, by whom and how was it

2. For that information to have been made so clear to Robert Peston, is it
the case that candidates have now been short listed and interviewed and all
other runners already excluded from the process?

Robert Peston makes this statement:

"As I understand it, Osborne and Cameron have never quite understood why the
regulation of the BBC could not be done in a cleaner and more ostensibly
impartial way by Ofcom.

If the Trust's regulatory functions were removed, it would resemble
something like the old governing board or even possibly a public company
board, concentrating on oversight of senior executive appointments, money,
risk and efficiency. There would be clarity that its ultimate duty of care
would be to licence-fee payers.

With these more focussed duties, the BBC Trust chairman could step into the
fray and shield the DG from heat in a crisis, without that compromising the
chairman's perceived impartiality as regulator (a constant tension under the
existing system).

All of which adds up to my second tidbit, which is that there may have been
a misinterpretation of the fact that the advert for the Trust chair job says
he or she will serve a four-year term.

This was seen as somehow evidence that radical reform of the Trust is off
the agenda.

That, I am reliably told, is wrong: if the BBC is not dismantled, the Trust
may be."

3. If the original job description was incorrect or misleading, I would
expect the appointment process to be re started to
include the truth about the length of term to be served. Will this now be
the case?

 I expect a full and detailed reply.

I also expect a full assurance that the Nolan principles are applied
correctly and openly to all candidates. To ensure there are no compromising
factors that impact candidates.

Thankyou for your time and care given to this serious matter,

Yours sincerely,

Tamsin Vincent

BBC Radio Forum
« Last Edit: July 11, 2014, 09:50:08 PM by Tiger »


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I need to update I had this reply from Sir David Normington.

Dear Tamsin Vincent,

Thank you for your email of 11 July to Bill Brooke regarding the current competition to select the Chair of the BBC Trust.

I understand your concern following recent press coverage.  It would always be better if selection process for public appointments could proceed without the accompaniment of press speculation and comment.

I am not able to comment on journalistic speculation, however distinguished the source.  What I can say is that at this point I remain confident that the competition is proceeding in line with my Code of Practice under the independent chairmanship of Mark Addison, one of my Public Appointments Assessors.

The job of the selection panel, which Mark is chairing, is to assess the merits of the applicants against the published criteria, and to put forward a list of appointable candidates from which the Secretary of State and Prime Minister will make the final choice.  That process is underway.

Thank you again for your e-mail.

David Normington
Commissioner for Public Appointments

I have to record here that I have not had any replies at all from Sue Gray, who is in overall charge of this appointment at the Cabinet Office. She has failed to reply to 3 letters. That is not acceptable.

If Seb Coe is appointed, those who appointed him may find that they did not properly look at the Nolan principles. And as Richard Biteback Brookes points out in the Times today, regarding Peston's blog saying that George Osborne had given Seb Coe a shoo in approval, it was Osborne who gave a shoo in to Andy Coulson into Number 10!


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The Grauniad reports that current acting chair, Diane Coyle is now out of the running.

To not even be granting an interview to someone who has been a trustee since 2006 and deputy chair since 2011 is a signal of something, if only I was awake enough to give it some thought.  For now though, I'm just thankful the possibility of a positive new broom is still, well, a possibility.


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I have to say that Diane Coyle was a very unappealing candidate. She oversaw some of the worst disasters that have ever befallen the BBC and should take her full share of the blame. She did not challenge the licence fee settlement, she did not monitor DMI, she did not monitor huge payoffs, she did not insist that Pollard corrected his report.....I could ask what exactly she did do?

I hope that she now leaves the Trust.

That said, it would be very damaging to have a political shoo-in who has very little committment or time or belief in public service broadcasting, remember Chris Patten?

But maybe the intention is to appoint another Patten and keep everything cosy at the top. Trouble is the BBC Trust has to represent the public and this time there will be reaction if the appointment does not deliver.


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I had this letter today from the DCMS. re George Osborne saying that Seb Coe is a shoo in.

"Dear Tamsin,

Thank you for your message. Again, I am replying as the responsible policy official in the Department.  You raise several further queries. 


To the first question, we do not comment on speculation.


On your second question, interviews for the position will take place over the summer, and the intention is for the new Chair to take up the role in November/December this year.  It is not government policy to offer commentary on each stage of appointments processes.


Thirdly, the length of term is as advertised in the role specification four years.


As set out in previous correspondence, the BBC Trust Chair appointment process will be fair and open, with an appointment made on merit, from a diverse, high quality field of candidates.  The selection panel is chaired by an independently appointed Public Appointments Assessor,  whose role is to ensure the integrity of the process, and that the Commissioner for Public Appointments code of practice is followed throughout.




Henry Anderton,



He sent this just before he went on leave for a few weeks!


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Just to show that we are not idiots, I have sent this in reply. This whole process is shocking and has got nothing to do with properly representing the public.

Anyway my reply, now sent to his deputy.


Dear Henry,
Thank you for your reply.
A leading political figure has given his approval and made clear that he will help a candidate to "overcome hurdles" in the appointment process to the appointment of the next chair of the BBC Trust.
He also described that as a shoo-in.This is not speculation and it is insulting to the public that you dismiss it in the way that you have.That person has considerable influence.
These are very serious statements that impact upon what should be a process based upon merit.
I insist that you provide me with evidence that this is not the case. You have described the process as one of integrity and that the code of practice is followed.
I will need you to make available information that shows that the sifting criteria was based upon merit. I would request that you also provide information about the sifting process itself. That would be a clear outline regarding whether the initial sift was conducted by Saxton Bampfylde.And the nature of the sifting criteria that was passed to the panel.
I will also need to ask you for all documentation that supported a statement from the appointment process that justified a change in job description and extension to deadline. That statement said that there had not been an adequate trawl of high quality candidates. That does not chime easily with reasons given to candidates who have been excluded from interview which stated that applications had been received from individuals with considerable breadth and depth of experience.You will need to explain that.
If you are unable to answer these questions, please pass to the appropriate person. In any case, I insist that you share this with Sue Gray, the public servant with overall responsibility as a priority.
You will need to be aware that this correspondence will be published.
You should also be aware that public trust in the integrity and responsibility of publicly appointed  civil servants and elected representatives depends upon transparency and a clear grasp of public duty. That trust has been severely tested over the last few years. Your reply could be considered as one of the reasons why the public have lost faith in a belief that the public voice is represented and answered.
I also request a guarantee that the Nolan principles have been applied to all short listed candidates.
Tamsin Vincent
BBC Radio Forum.


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