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Secrecy concerns raised around appointment of new BBC Trust chairman

By William Turvill

The Taxpayers’ Alliance and the BBC Radio Forum have jointly raised concerns about secrecy surrounding the appointment of a new BBC Trust chairman.

In a letter to Culture Secretary Sajid Javid and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the organisations said the application process has not “been remotely satisfactory so far”.

They have also questioned the suitability of current acting chairman Diane Coyle for the role.

The letter raises issues with the fact that a headhunting firm, Saxton Bampfylde, has been hired “at considerable public expense to encourage certain candidates to apply”.

The organisations have also asked Javid to explain why the next chairman will be required to work two days a week – down from three to four – while still being paid £110,000 a year.

The letter asked why no information has been released on who the three people on the interview panel for the Trust role are and how they were picked. It said: “This is the opposite of transparent and is completely unacceptable to the public. Can you please provide us with this information?”

The organisations questioned why Coyle was allowed to make a speech on 23 June at the London School of Economics “outlining her vision of the BBC in the 21st Centry”.

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It said: “Since she has herself applied to succeed Lord Patten as the permanent Trust chairman, this speech was arguably a pitch for her own aspirations, giving her an unfair advantage over other candidates.

“Not only that, but Ms Coyle used the BBC Trust press office to circulate the text of her speech in advance of it being delivered, almost certainly guaranteeing the widest possible coverage in all national newspapers on 24 June. 

“Her use of this publicly-funded press office to give her such a platform cannot be right on any level. We would urge you to investigate on whose authority she made this speech, whose permission she sought, and whether she has broken any BBC Trust rules by using the press office to advertise the speech.”

The letter, reported on by The Mail on Sunday this weekend, also highlighted her role in keeping under wraps a tape recording in which Nick Pollard discussed his failure to include certain evidence in his report into the Jimmy Savile scandal.

The letter said: “How can it be irrelevant that the head of a £3 million BBC inquiry knowingly withheld key evidence from his report and then admitted as much?"

It added: "Ms Coyle should examine her conscience carefully and the DCMS should examine whether she is a fit and proper person to become the BBC Trust chair.”

A BBC Trust spokesman said: “It is a matter of public record that Trustees listened to the recording in question and considered it did not undermine the conclusions of the Pollard report which we believe was an independent, fair and thorough examination of the issues raised.”

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