The end of the road for the BBC Trust

I was at the IPPR’s Oxford Media Convention today to listen to Rona Fairhead talk about what might replace the BBC Trust.

Despite saying she didn’t want her time as BBC Trust chair to be overshadowed by discussions about governance, she’s ensured that will have to be part of the conversation through charter renewal. And there’s nothing like pre-announcing your departure to weaken your negotiating hand.

Her position is relatively collegiate at this stage. She recognises the need for a new system of governance and is suggesting an enhanced BBC board with a separate body for regulation. That’s not dissimilar to the suggestion from the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee.

It’s been clear for some time that the BBC Trust was compromised. Under Lord Patten it was too ready to be both defender and cheerleader for the BBC. Rona Fairhead’s suggestion aims make it clearer where responsibility for governance lies.

Which is why I was surprised that she ruled out Ofcom as a potential regulator saying the BBC’s complexity means it needs a dedicated and bespoke regulator.

As someone who’s developed new broadcast and digital services that have had to contend with the 800lb gorilla that is the BBC I think that’s disappointing. If we want to level the regulatory field, a single regulator seems to me to be the most sensible answer.