Thursday 12 September 2013

James Purnell wants to keep the NOA at bay

The Culture Secretary, Maria Miller, has said that the National Audit Office must have full access to the BBC’s accounts, linking her decision to the controversy over excessive pay-offs for senior BBC executives.

The present situation is that the NAO can only access the BBC's accounts once a quarter, and only with the BBC Trust's permission. 

The corporation's Head of Strategy, former Labour Party cabinet minister James Purnell, has responded, saying that such a move could endanger the BBC's independence. He says that BBC journalists "should be able to be incredibly tough on politicians and people in power without having to look over their shoulder".

To me that reads like a classic (former) politician's appeal to the public to back them against the "people in power" - as if the BBC has no power of its own.

Quite why allowing the NAO access to the BBC's accounts is a potential threat to the corporation's editorial policy is something I really can't quite get my head around. 

Maria Miller's move sounds a reasonable one to me, while James Purnell's counter-parry sounds like a weak defensive gambit to try to cover an errant BBC's back (perhaps reflecting the thought processes of a former MP. Remember the parliamentary expenses scandal?)

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