Board of Governors of the BBC

Board of Governors of the BBC

The Board of Governors of the BBC was a group of twelve people who together regulated the BBC and represented the interests of the public, in particular those of viewers and listeners. It existed from 1927 until it was replaced by the BBC Trust on 1 January 2007.

The governors were independent of the Director-General and the rest of the BBC's Executive Team. They had no direct say in programme-making, but were nevertheless accountable to Parliament (and the public) for the BBC's actions. Although a 'state broadcaster', the BBC is theoretically protected from government interference due to the statutory role of the governors.

The Governors' role was to appoint the Director-General and other key BBC staff. They approved strategy and policy, set objectives, handled complaints, and produced "Annual Reports" that documented the BBC's performance and compliance each year.

The role of chairman of the Board of Governors though a non executive, was one of the most important positions in British media.


Governors were usually appointed from senior positions in various walks of British society. Appointments were part-time positions and lasted for four (formerly five) years. Four governors were given specific responsibilities: for Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the English regions.

Governors were nominally appointed by the monarch on the advice of ministers. In practice, governors were chosen by the government of the day. This has led to claims of political interference, in particular during the years of Margaret Thatcher's premiership. Most recently, the government of Tony Blair appointed Michael Grade as chairman of the Board of Governors on the recommendation of an independent selection committee.


The government of Margaret Thatcher appointed a succession of governors with the apparent intent of bringing the BBC "into line" with government policy. Marmaduke Hussey was appointed chairman of the Board of Governors apparently with the specific agenda of bringing down the then-Director-General Alasdair Milne; this government also broke the tradition of always having a trade union leader on the Board of Governors.

It has also been suggested that Harold Wilson's appointment of the former Tory minister Lord Hill as chairman of the Board of Governors in 1967 was motivated by a desire to undermine the radical, questioning agenda of Director-General Sir Hugh Greene - ironically Wilson had attacked the appointment of Hill as Chairman of the Independent Television Authority by a Tory government in 1963.

In January 2004 Gavyn Davies, who had been appointed chairman of the Board of Governors by the Labour government in 2001, resigned in the wake of the Hutton Inquiry. Subsequently, the acting chairman was Lord Ryder, previously a Conservative MP and a member of Margaret Thatcher's personal staff. It has been claimed that Ryder and other Conservatives on the Board of Governors were effectively responsible for "forcing out" Director-General Greg Dyke, who had not initially believed that his offer of resignation would be accepted by the Governors. In May of 2004, Michael Grade took over as permanent chairman.

The last Board of Governors

The governors as of the board's dissolution on 31 December 2006 were:

*Anthony Salz (Acting Chairman)
*Professor Ranjit Sondhi (National Governor for the English regions)
*Professor Fabian Monds (National Governor for Northern Ireland)
*Professor Merfyn Jones (National Governor for Wales)
*Jeremy Peat (National Governor for Scotland)
*Deborah Bull
*Andrew Burns
*Dermot Gleeson
*Angela Sarkis
*Richard Tait, appointed for a four-year term on 1 August 2004.

Chairmen of the Board of Governors

*Joseph Albert Pease, 1st Baron Gainford (chairman of the British Broadcasting Company, before incorporation) (1922)
*George Herbert Hyde Villiers, 6th Earl of Clarendon (first chairman of the British Broadcasting Corporation) (1927)
*John Henry Whitley (1930)
*William Clive Bridgeman, 1st Viscount Bridgeman (1935)
*Ronald Collet Norman (1935)
*Sir Allan Powell (1940)
*Philip Inman, 1st Baron Inman (1947)
*Ernest Simon, 1st Baron Simon of Wythenshawe (1947)
*Sir Alexander Cadogan (1952)
*Sir Arthur fforde (1957)
*Sir James Fitzjames Duff (1964)
*Norman Craven Brook, 1st Baron Normanbrook (1964)
*Lord Hill of Luton (1967)
*Sir Michael Swann (1973)
*George Howard, Baron Howard of Henderskelfe (1980)
*Stuart Young (1983)
*Marmaduke Hussey, Baron Hussey of North Bradley (1986)
*Sir Christopher Bland (1996)
*Gavyn Davies (October 2001 - January 28, 2004)
*Lord Ryder (acting chairman) (January 28, 2004 - May 17, 2004)
*Michael Grade (May 17, 2004 - November 28, 2006)

External links

* [ Website of BBC Board of Governors]
* [ BBC Annual Reports]

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