The chair of the BBC Trust, Rona Fairhead, has opened the debate on the future of the BBC at the RTS, ahead of charter renewal in 2016.
Rona Fairhead has called for a ‘very real' discussion about the future of the BBC in her first public speech as chair of the BBC Trust.
Speaking to the Royal Television Society at the British Museum on Tuesday, Fairhead said a ‘proper public debate’ about the future of the BBC had to take place in the run up to charter renewal, and not ‘one conducted by a small elite’.
The Charter Review takes place in 2016, and this speech was the first step on a road of a “very real debate about the future, size and shape” of the Corporation, Fairhead said.
She stressed that the discussion over the future of the BBC must include the licence fee payer.
“I also believe that the debate must include the voices of all the people out there who pay for the BBC," she added. "Who love its programmes, who are its true owners.”
Rona Fairhead was Chief Executive of the Financial Times Group until 2013, and stressed to the audience that she had spent much of her career competing against the corporation.
She said that her commercial sector experience will help her in driving down costs – calling the need to improve efficiency a “never-ending journey”.
Research from ICM, commissioned by the Trust and published tonight, showed that four in five people questioned believe the BBC achieves its mission objectives to ‘inform, educate, entertain’.
In a very personal speech, following an introduction by RTS President Sir Peter Bazalgette, Fairhead said that the BBC played a hugely important role her life when she was growing up. The chairman also said the BBC was her companion when she was treated for cancer. “I understood then what the BBC means to people who are housebound." Adding that it gave her comfort at a difficult time.
Fairhead quoted research that suggests the majority of people see an annual licence fee of £145.50 as value for money.
The speech ended on a confident note. She ended: "There is a lot to be confident about. But all the noise around the BBC can be a distraction. I see it as my job to push the BBC to be confident and connected with its audience in everythign that it does."