BBC response to MPs condemned as ‘arrogant’

By Liz Stephens

The response of the BBC Trust to recommendations by a group of influential MPs was branded “not coherent” and “arrogant” today.

The culture media and sport select committee condemned the BBC for “avoiding” addressing the concerns it raised regarding the organisation’s commercial operations back in April.

The committee were aggrieved by the “apparent arrogance of the BBC Trust who appear to believe they had no case to answer”.

It also launched a salvo against the Trust for failing to implement specific guidance issued by the committee over the commercial criteria used by BBC Worldwide, slamming the organisation for not disclosing the financial details of its purchase of the travel guide company Lonely Planet.

It called the BBC’s lack of transparency and reluctance to answer questions or implement changes “self-defeating in terms of the preservation of its public reputation”.

“We consider that the BBC has a duty and responsibility to properly account for exactly how its commercial activities benefit the licence fee payer,” it said.

However, in its response, the BBC Trust said it had been unable to respond to all of the committee’s concerns until the issues of the government’s new guidance on the relationship between BBC Worldwide and Channel 4, and the future of the licence fee had been ironed out.

The BBC said: “Our response is, of necessity, less definitive than we would have wished. Whilst we have sought to share with the Committee the broad direction of our thinking, this remains subject to further work as the Digital Britain agenda evolves”.

Committee chair John Whittingdale said: “We look to the BBC to respond with greater diligence to select committee reports in future.”

Last week culture secretary Ben Bradshaw attacked the BBC for refusing to allow the National Audit Office (NAO) access to its accounts and failing to limit its expansion, threatening to overhaul its governing body.

BBC director general Mark Thompson retaliated at the Royal Television Society convention by accusing the government of hypocrisy.

He warned that the corporation would “fight tooth and nail to preserve our public remit”.