BBC appoints former Sony boss as embarks on management revamp

LONDON Wed Dec 11, 2013 11:39am EST

LONDON Dec 11 (Reuters) - After a year of turbulence, the BBC unveiled plans for a management shake-up on Wednesday to help restore confidence in Britain's publicly funded broadcaster, starting with the appointment of ex-Sony CEO and CBS president Howard Stringer.

The appointment was among a raft of changes designed to cut red tape, accelerate decision-making and clarify vague lines of responsibility that culminated in a finger-pointing session this year over who approved large payments to departing staff.

As well as the public row over severance payments, the BBC faced controversies over prolific sex crimes by late TV presenter Jimmy Savile and the failure of a 100 million pound ($160 million) digital media project.

Following a review of governance, the corporation's two leaders, Director General Tony Hall and BBC Trust chairman Chris Patten, announced changes to clearly divide the responsibilities of the executive board that runs day-to-day operations and the Trust that assesses the executive.

To strengthen the executive board, Hall will boost the number of non-executive directors to six from four, drawing in expertise from outside such as Stringer who will join on January 1 and these appointees will take a more prominent public role.

Senior executives will be given greater power to make decisions and 60 percent of pan-BBC boards, currently totally about 56, will be scrapped from April next year including the director general's finance committee.

To aid transparency, the executive will provide a more thorough monthly report to the BBC Trust which will hold public performance review sessions.

The Trust will step away from the day-to-day management of issues, creating a greater separation between the two groups.

Patten said Britons, who fund the BBC through paying annual licence fees, valued the broadcaster's programmes but they also needed to have faith in the way the corporation was run.

"There is no doubt that events over the past year ... have rattled that faith," Patten said in a blog.

"I hope that, as a result of the changes we have announced today, the constant debate around the BBC will shift to focus on the programmes and content it makes, rather than how it is run."

The changes come after public clashes between Patten and former BBC Director General Mark Thompson, now chief executive at the New York Times Company, over who knew what about large severance payments to departing senior executives.

The confusion was seen as potentially damaging to the current structure of the BBC ahead of the renewal of its 10-year charter which is due to take place by the end of 2016.

Hall, who took up office in April this year, has pledged to improve decision-making and cut management duplication while setting a target to double the BBC's global audience by 2022.