The Clementi Review on the BBC: a response from Wales

The recommendations on BBC governance could be good news for Wales. But the devolved nations must ensure that mechanisms of accountability are not weakened in the implementation. 

Angela Graham
3 March 2016

The focus of the Clementi Review was on the governance and regulation of the BBC. However, from the point of view of broadcasting in Wales, the recommendations that impact on accountability and representation (both in governance and on-screen) are especially important. 

The Institute of Welsh Affairs is particularly pleased to see that this review has not followed the line of a recent government proposal to have no representatives from the nations on any new unitary BBC board - a proposal which flies in the face of the realities of devolution as it is experienced in the nations. Clementi’s stance is more likely to deliver a working relationship in the long-term. 

For Wales, the key Clementi recommendations are:

  • - that the BBC be answerable to OFCOM
  •  - that a unitary board for the BBC should include representatives of the four devolved nations
  •  - that there should be national operating licences for each of the devolved nations
  •  - that the audience councils should be retained, but chaired by the welsh director on the BBC board
  •  - that the BBC board should also consider whether to give the audience councils more powers. 

In the IWA’s Submission to Clementi Review we recommended an equivalent to Clementi’s national operating licences, accompanied by a single funding allocation to cover all services provided by that nation.

Our major concern is Clementi’s recommendations about the future of the audience councils. Although the review gives a useful and insightful critique of the councils, we are concerned that its criticism of the current charter for being ‘highly prescriptive’ and its call for ‘greater flexibility in the new charter’ in relation to them, could lead to their being weakened at the BBC’s whim. For the nations, mechanisms of accountability are too important to be left without the protection of prescriptive measures enshrined in the charter.

 We would like to see councils in each nation which would:

-       approve the allocation of resources between the various services

-       monitor and review annually the delivery of the national service licence

-       ascertain and monitor the state of public opinion

-       ascertain the needs and interests of members of the public

-       assist the board in each nation in the formulation of objectives for that nationʼs services

-       monitor that nationʼs contribution to the BBCʼs network services as well as the coverage and portrayal of that nation in those services

-       advise the BBC centrally, as it sees fit, on any matters relating to the output, management, governance or reputation of the BBC.

In relation to Wales, the Clementi Review must be considered in tandem with a crucial report, issued on 2nd March, by the Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee of the National Assembly for Wales. Its Inquiry into the BBC Charter Review report makes eleven recommendations, on a much broader canvas than Clementi, but one which gives the clearest possible message that politicians in Wales have taken on board the need to create a BBC fit for Wales within tomorrow’s UK. In that future, Wales will expect to have an adequate say in its media operations and a BBC that, both at local and network level, represents Wales and is properly accountable.

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