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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 April 2007, 16:57 GMT 17:57 UK
New BBC chairman pledges quality
Sir Michael Lyons

Sir Michael Lyons, a former council chief executive and market trader, has been named the new chairman of the BBC.

The 57-year-old will take the helm of the BBC Trust, replacing Michael Grade, who left for ITV last November.

Sir Michael said it was a "great privilege" to be the first chairman of the Trust, which the government created to be "the licence fee payer's voice".

He said he would not lose sight of the public's "expectations of editorial independence and quality programmes".

Sir Michael has been chief executive of Wolverhampton, Nottinghamshire and Birmingham councils and was professor of public policy at Birmingham University until last year.

His broadcasting experience comes from being a former non-executive director of Central Television and chairman of ITV's Regional Advisory Council.

Ruling on managers' proposals for spending the licence fee for the next six years
Final decision on whether to approve the BBC's video-on-demand plans
Deciding whether to allow adverts on international parts of BBC website
Reviewing the suspended online educational service BBC Jam
Final approval for proposed satellite service Freesat
"Under my leadership, the Trust will continue to safeguard the BBC's editorial independence and ensure that is impartial," he told a press conference.

"Every member of the UK population pays the same licence fee and each have an equal ownership.

"My job as chairman of the Trust is to ensure that we listen to the main and varied views throughout the UK and seek to ensure they are reflected in the work and output of the BBC.

"I believe I can bring both experience and enthusiasm from my earlier career."

Former BBC chairman Michael Grade
Michael Grade left to become executive chairman of ITV
Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said Sir Michael was "experienced and talented".

"He has a distinguished track record in local government and a wide range of other sectors," she said.

"He will be an excellent chair of the new BBC Trust. Along with the eleven Trust members, he will represent the interests of the licence fee payers, ensuring they receive quality programming and value for money."

Sir Michael's appointment was formally made by The Queen and announced by Prime Minister Tony Blair's Downing Street office.

But the Conservative Party raised concerns that Sir Michael, who recently completed a three-year review into changes in the council tax system, was too close to Chancellor Gordon Brown.

People are entitled to ask on what criteria Sir Michael Lyons - someone with close links to the Labour Party - was selected
Hugo Swire
Shadow culture secretary
Shadow culture secretary Hugo Swire said: "Today we have a situation where important appointments - increasingly dominated by Labour supporters - are made without any form of public scrutiny.

"People are entitled to ask on what criteria Sir Michael Lyons - someone with close links to the Labour Party and Gordon Brown in particular - was selected for this role.

"It is time for major public appointments such as this to be conducted with greater transparency."

But Sir Michael rejected claims of political cronyism. He said: "It's certainly true that he's asked me to do three jobs - all of them difficult. I've done them to the best of my ability.

I think he has too close links to politics and not enough experience in television
Simon Davenport, Norwich

"I think that's really where it begins and ends. I've worked for him and I've enjoyed that work. I'm coming on now to a different role which demands - and I will deliver - absolute independence and impartiality."

The BBC Trust replaced the broadcaster's board of governors in January. The government said it was intended to ensure an "unprecedented obligation to openness and transparency."

The change came in the wake of the Hutton Report in 2004, which highlighted problems with the governors' dual role as both the corporation's champions and regulators.

Sir Michael Lyons on what he hopes to achieve

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