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Chris Bryant MP, the Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport in the Labour opposition, has suggested that recent events indicate that the current BBC Trust model of governance is “bust”, and questioned the continuing role of Trust Chair Rona Fairhead.
Speaking to the Broadcasting Press Guild, Bryant, a former Head of European Affairs at the BBC, said that the Trust’s chair invariably lip-synced with the Corporation’s Director General, or undermined him.
Criticising the manner in which the passing on the the BBC of the responsibility for funding free licences for over-75s, he said there was a need to ensure there wasn’t a repetition of such a deal which hadn’t received public scrutiny.
He questioned the power of parliament’s Select Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee to address such issues, and expressed surprise that Jesse Norman, Chair of the Committee, hadn’t spoken publicly on the matter. “If you’re going to be a government patsy, there’s no point in being Chair of the Committee,” he declared.
He also questioned the stance of John Whittingdale, the Secretary of State, who when Chair of the Committee in the previous parliament, had condemned similar deals that had bypassed public scrutiny, yet when in Cabinet had seemingly acquiesced to the Treasury initiative.