Thursday, May 26, 2016

The joy of governance

It was perhaps unfortunate that, as Lord Hall was quizzed by MPs yesterday about his issues with the make-up of a new unitary board, he couldn't quite remember the balance of his current Executive. He though it might be 8 BBC to 6 non-executives. It isn't yet, but will be when Nicholas Serota arrives in August.

The woeful Clementi report pointed to a BBC Board featuring 11 non-execs, perhaps playing against as few as 4 BBC employees. Listening to yesterday's session, I think Lord Hall is trying to get Whittingdale to agree to my marvellous plan, where some new non-executives would bring both a skill and an area of the UK they could credibly represent, perhaps in some sort of joint selection process.

Meanwhile, in terms of structure inside the organisation, Helen Boaden has made her first appointments in her role as Director of England - establishing Alice Webb as Director, North as well as her existing role running Childrens output, and renaming Joe Godwin, currently Director Birmingham as Director Midlands - he also keeps running The Academy (training, to you and me).  I fully expect there to be calls from MPs for a Director South West and East Anglia within days.

By these appointments, Helen gives herself more time for her commiments as Director of Radio - but for how long ?  She's been the subject of a couple of Private Eye stories alleging she's stood up to Lord Hall over restructuring at Executive level, apparently rejecting the idea that there's a proper job in being Director of Nations and Regions (a role axed by Mark Thompson in 2008, with Pat Loughrey exiting most elegantly). Is the three-humped camel back on the horizon ? Will the new jobs be advertised ? Is Lord Hall still looking for a Director of Content ?  You tell me. Please.

Back to BBC Governance at the high level. We have a current case that Lord Hall might like to offer when talking to John Whittingdale about why packing a BBC board with Government-approved appointees might be tricky. The ever-collegiate James Harding, who's clearly studied issues of Cabinet responsibility, has made it public that he's putting the future of the BBC News Channel to the Executive to decide, as one of six options at the July board meeting. It's a poor form of leadership, even if he makes public his preferred option. "They made me do it", he can write as his end par in the redundancy letters. But even worse, imagine if this decision was taken by a majority vote of non-executives ....

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