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  • Writer's pictureDavid Lloyd

The most worrying thing about the BBC

There’s something more seriously worrying about the BBC than the fact that it is choosing the wrong course for local radio.

It is that it is proving itself unaccountable.

You can’t rely on BBC local radio senior management for a rethink.

BBC local radio senior management have not listened to wise counsel internally or externally. Alas, I question whether they have the necessary knowledge of radio programming, operational planning or listener behaviour. Some are not agreeing to be interviewed on their own channels where their approach may be questioned.

You can't rely on listener feedback to influence a rethink - whatever the volume

Listeners are writing to MPs, signing petitions and writing to the BBC complaints bot. The BBC shrugs off such feedback, saying it is to be expected with change - without having conducted its own specific research into listener opinion on this matter to ascertain what the views of its licence payers broadly are.

You can’t rely on the volume of staff feedback to influence a rethink

Staff are formally expressing a serious lack of confidence in their leaders as the implementation of this flawed plan crumbles. They are being ignored, despite the feedback raising serious questions about the process and those involved in its implementation.

You can’t rely on the BBC Chair for a rethink

There is no Chair. There has been an acting Chair since June who does not appear to have said very much generally - let alone on this key topic. The DG is similarly quiet on the issue.

You can’t rely on the Board for a re-think.

The other BBC directors do not seem to be doing much of value. Letters to them appear to be ignored.

You can’t rely on Ofcom to intervene.

Ofcom has failed to draw up an effective service licence that preserves localness; failed to consult effectively on changes in accordance with its guidelines; and has failed, so far, to follow up on its letter (Feb 23) in which it promised "monitoring", "new research" and action.

It has said: "if we identify any concerns about the BBC’s provision of local content, we will consider whether we need to introduce further requirements into the Operating Licence." It has yet to act despite now having output to consider.

You can’t rely on the BBC Trust for intervention.

The BBC Trust previously intervened in significant changes. It closed in 2017.

You can’t look to DCMS to intervene

I expect that the sensible folk at DCMS would rather like to get involved, but they can’t. The job has been delegated to Ofcom.

You can’t rely on BBC Executive Committee or Nations Committee for a re-think.

Even though the behaviour of senior management in local radio has shown a demonstrable lack of respect to staff in its change management which is bringing the BBC into serious disrepute, contrary to its principles, there has been no remedial action.

You can’t rely on Parliament.

MPs are there to represent their constituents. And - cross-party -they have duly done so on this issue. They have written letters and participated in debates with clear outcomes. But they’ve been ignored. And the law delegates these sorts of matters ultimately to Ofcom.

So, where do you look?

What is the appropriate conduit to stop the silliness? Silliness only folk who appear not to know what they are doing agree with?

Why is this broadcaster so unaccountable – when it is publicly funded to act in our name? It should be the most accountable of all.

Those of us speaking out do not do so because we are BBC bashers. We do it because we support the BBC with a passion. And BBC people get in touch with us who are afraid to speak out but have been warned not to. If the BBC is to survive and thrive, it must enjoy public confidence.

The local radio issue highlights a broader issue. Is there something constitutionally wrong with the way the BBC is governed? No element of its governance now appears to represent its audience adequately. If this is not rectified, then something most citizens of the UK hold dear will wither and fall.

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