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Wednesday, 19 September, 2001, 17:36 GMT 18:36 UK
Q&A: BBC chair Gavyn Davies
Gavyn Davies
Davies: Had been vice-chairman for eight months
The BBC's new chairman Gavyn Davies answers questions put to him by the media correspondent Torin Douglas on his appointment, his role and the future of the corporation.


You are a former member of the Labour Party. Are concerns over impartiality justified?

I can assure everybody that the impartiality of the BBC is not at risk in any sense whatsoever.

I am happy to stand for the best things in the tradition of the BBC - lack of bias, impartiality, neutrality and reflecting our political system in its broadest sense.

I just reject the criticism that this will have any effect on the BBC.

We also have to think about the mix of the future appointment of the vice-chair.

I can't make any promises because I am just one member of the selection panel but I would like to assure the Conservatives here and I have a lot of sympathy for their point of view.

How important is that justice, in terms of your appointment, is done and seen to be done?

This is the first time that this job has been determined by an open process.

There was an open applications process, an advertisement to which I responded, there was a panel of public figures, officials from the government, business people and former BBC executives who made the decision.

It's been reported their decision was unanimous and they put one name forward to the prime minister and secretary of state.

I feel that is a strong counterbalance to arguments about "cronyism" which, quite frankly, I find absolutely outrageous.

Is there anything in your career which would refute that accusation of 'cronyism'?

There are several things - one is the fact the last government I worked for was the last Conservative Government, working as an independent economics advisor, working for Chancellors Ken Clarke and Norman Lamont.

I have not had a career in the city by being a crony. You do not get very far in the city being a crony. I am a professional, I know the difference between personal and political persuasions which I have left outside the BBC and outside my professional tasks in the past.

I want to reassure the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats that they have every bit my concern in ensuring they get a fair crack of the whip from the BBC and its news services.

Why did you not resign from the Labour Party when you were made vice chairman?

It hadn't been the practice for vice chairmen in the past to resign.

Sir Christopher Bland resigned his Conservative Party membership when he became chairman and I followed exactly the same pattern.

Why did you want to become chairman and what are you challenges?

I wanted the job because I think this is one of Britain's greatest public organisations.

I really believe passionately that the BBC is an institution that must succeed for the good of the nation and the culture of the nation. I believe that I have a perspective on how to make that happen and to contribute to the success of this organisation.

How significant a blow is the secretary of state for culture's rejection of plans for BBC Three to the corporation?

We said we were disappointed.

We strongly believe that BBC Three - a channel for young adults - is badly needed.

We strongly believe that it does not replicate what the commercial market is providing.

We intend to go back to the secretary of state and seek to persuade her to change her mind and give us permission to launch it.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Mark Mardell
"He's got a strong track record"
Tim Yeo, Shadow Culture Secretary
"This is break with all previous precedent"
The BBC's Political Correspondent Nick Robinson
"He was a funder of the Labour party"
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