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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 January, 2004, 12:22 GMT
Q&A: The BBC's Charter Review
Tessa Jowell
Tessa Jowell is Secretary of State of Culture, Media and Sport

Following the Hutton Report, Prime Minister Tony Blair told the House of Commons that future regulation of the BBC would be considered as part of a review into the BBC's Royal Charter.

With this comprehensive review of the charter already under way, BBC News Online examines what the charter is and what the review process involves.

What is the BBC's Royal Charter?

The Royal Charter sets out how the BBC should be funded, what it does and how it is managed. It allows the corporation to run independently from the government under a board of governors but serving the public.

When does it the current charter run out?

The charter will expire on 31 December 2006.

How is a new charter granted?

Since the first charter in 1927, a review has been carried out every 10 years to examine how all aspects of the BBC serve the public and its future.

Who carries out the review?

The review, which is already under way, is carried out by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS)
The BBC is also conducting its own public consultation.

What will be discussed in the review?

Secretary of State for the DCMS Tessa Jowell has already set out some of the topics up for discussion. These include ensuring the BBC is extending its range and raising the standards of public broadcasting; and the size, scope and accountability of the corporation.
It will also examine the BBC's digital services ahead of the proposed switch off of the analogue service around 2010.

Who gets a say in the charter review?

Everyone is entitled to give their opinions during the consultation stages, with the DCMS particularly encouraging public involvement. Children are also being invited to air their views on what they want to see from the BBC in the future.

The public will be asked questions such as: "What do you value most about the BBC?", "How should we pay for the BBC?" and "How should the BBC be governed and regulated?".

There will also be an opportunity for industry, including other broadcasters, to have its say.

What could be the main opposition to the granting of the charter?

There could be opposition to the continuation of the licence fee from some quarters who feel the BBC benefits too greatly from public funding at the expense of other broadcasters.

There may now also be calls for the corporation to be brought under the control of the communications regulator Ofcom, taking the power away from the governors who agree the BBC's strategy and monitor its performance.

Will the Hutton Report have any repercussions during the charter review?

At the height of the row between the government and the BBC before the publication of the Hutton Report, Tessa Jowell stressed that there would be no repercussions for the BBC.

But certainly the report means that the role of the BBC will come under greater scrutiny than at any other time in its existence.

Is there a chance the licence fee could be scrapped?

The secretary for the DCMS Tessa Jowell has already said the review will include tough questions about how the BBC is funded and spends its money, but she previously stated abolition of the licence fee was "between improbable and impossible".




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