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Tuesday, 11 September, 2001, 15:49 GMT 16:49 UK
BBC chairman bias fear
Broadcasting House
The Nolan rules were introduced after the 1997 election
The government has confirmed it will not interfere with the appointment of a new BBC chairman, after Tories said they feared political bias.

Shadow culture secretary Peter Ainsworth said he was concerned that rules to ensure public appointments are made on merit could make the BBC's board of governors politically unbalanced.

Peter Ainsworth
Ainsworth: "Appointment of Greg Dyke controversial enough"
Gavyn Davies, currently BBC vice-chairman, is known to have Labour leanings and is a close friend of Gordon Brown - while other candidates also have clear political links.

If Goldman Sachs economist Davies did become chairman, under previous precedent he would be given a Conservative-leaning deputy.

Now the BBC vice-chairmanship will be advertised, as the chairmanship has been, for the first time - with the successful candidate chosen on merit rather than political leaning.

Gavyn Davies
Davies: Known to have Labour links
Shadow culture secretary Peter Ainsworth told BBC News Online: "It would be detrimental to the BBC and its obligations of impartiality if both chairman and vice-chairman were seen to be supporters of the government of the day.

'Controversial'

"This is an appointment made by the DCMS and ratified by the prime minister - nobody's fooled by talk of 'arm's length'.

"The appointment of Greg Dyke was controversial enough - but if these appointment procedures ended up with the three top men at the BBC of one political persuasion, it's the BBC that would suffer."

Tessa Jowell
Jowell: Will stand by Nolan rules
But a DCMS spokeswoman confirmed on Tuesday that Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell would follow the so-called Nolan rules whoever becomes chairman.

Interviewing for the post of BBC chairman begins on Tuesday.

The BBC chairman shortlist consists of six candidates: Gavyn Davies, David Dimbleby, Michael Grade, Baroness Jay of Paddington, John Ashworth and Dame Pauline Neville-Jones.

See also:

10 Sep 01 | TV and Radio
Interviews for BBC chair to begin
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