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Re-imagining the BBC: Charters Past and Present

2 December 2015

Peter Hennessy was joined by Tessa Jowell, Norman Fowler, David Levy and Tony Hall to discuss what can be learned from previous Charter review rounds. 

Time: 6:30pm
Venue: House of Lords

In the first of two events organised by the Mile End Institute and the BBC, we brought together a panel of speakers with direct experience of Charter rounds to reflect on the lessons of the past.

Chaired by Lord (Peter) Hennessy, the panel featured Dame Tessa Jowell, former Secretary of State for Culture Media & Sport, Lord (Norman) Fowler, former chair of the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications and David Levy, former Controller of Public Policy at the BBC and now Director of the Reuters Institute at Oxford University.

A full transcript of the event is available to download.

Lord (Tony) Hall, Director General of the BBC, who co-hosted the event,  repeated his calls for an external regulator for the corporation, arguing for regulation that is “effective, not prescriptive”. 

Speaking to a packed room, he called for a more independent BBC, saying that a five-year charter is “dangerous” to the corporation’s independence.

Reflecting on her involvement in the negotiation of the 2006 Royal Charter, Tessa Jowell remembered the “shocking friendlessness of the BBC”, and the tension between the government and the corporation. 

David Levy reflected on his experience of negotiating the BBC Charter while Controller of Public Policy at the corporation and Norman Fowler said he could not support the existence of the Royal Charter, although he remains a strong supporter of the BBC.

The remarks were followed by a lively discussion with the audience, which included Jesse Norman MP, Chairman of the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport select committee.

A transcript of the event is available:

Re-imagining the BBC: Charters Past and Present - transcript [PDF 399 KB]
The second event in the series is due to take place on 29 February.
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