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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 August 2007, 23:25 GMT 00:25 UK
Lords rap BBC chairman selection
Sir Michael Lyons
Sir Michael Lyons' appointment was announced in April
The way Sir Michael Lyons was appointed BBC chairman has come under attack from an all-party select committee.

The government's role in appointing the chairman of the BBC Trust should be limited, according to a House of Lords Communications Committee report.

The process used to appoint Sir Michael earlier this year gave ministers "considerable opportunity" to influence the selection, the committee said.

The government said the appointment followed strict guidelines.

The report follows recent revelations about editorial failings within the BBC and the fairness of phone-in competitions at the corporation and elsewhere.

The BBC welcomed the report, but said Sir Michael's appointment was a matter for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

'Open and transparent'

DCMS said the process used to appoint Sir Michael "followed strict guidelines set by the Commissioner for Public Appointments".

"The selection panel was put together by DCMS officials and the appointment was made on merit after a fair, open and transparent process," said a spokesman.

CHAIRMAN SELECTION PROCESS
Following Michael Grade's resignation, DCMS engaged head-hunters to identify potential replacements
DCMS appointed selection panel chaired by civil servant Andrew Ramsay
Panel put shortlist of four candidates to government ministers who asked for one name (not Sir Michael Lyons) to be added
The five shortlisted candidates were interviewed by the panel who recommended four of them to ministers
Ministers appointed Sir Michael Lyons as chairman of BBC Trust

Sir Michael, a former market trader and council chief executive, became BBC chairman after Michael Grade left the corporation to join ITV.

Sir Michael Lyons' links to Gordon Brown, who was chancellor at the time of the appointment, led to accusations of cronyism.

In April, Sir Michael pledged to perform his duties with "absolute independence and impartiality".

The Lords committee said it was not questioning his ability to do the job, merely the way he was appointed.

The main area of concern expressed in the report is what is called the "considerable powers" government ministers had over Sir Michael's appointment.

'Greater clarity'

In future, said the committee, the chairman should be "subject to a pre-appointment parliamentary hearing".

It also recommended the chairman should be subject to a six-month notice period.

Elsewhere in the report, the committee said efforts should be made to bring "greater clarity" to the chairman's role.

Michael Grade
Sir Michael's appointment followed Michael Grade's resignation

"It is no longer clear who is ultimately responsible for the BBC or what the role of the Chairman of the BBC Trust is."

In a statement the Trust said the corporation's new Charter makes it clear its role is as "the sovereign body within the BBC".

"With his fellow Trust members, the Chairman of the Trust works on behalf of licence fee payers to ensure the BBC remains independent, provides quality programmes and services and offers value for money."

Liberal Democrat spokesman Don Foster MP said the report "highlights the failure of the government's post-Hutton attempts to reform the BBC".

"There is now real confusion as to who ensures the BBC remains independent from political interference and who is representing the interests of the licence fee payer," he added.


SEE ALSO
BBC Trust 'won't work' says Dyke
08 May 07 |  Entertainment
First day in job for BBC chairman
01 May 07 |  Entertainment
New BBC chairman pledges quality
05 Apr 07 |  Entertainment
Grade quits BBC post to join ITV
28 Nov 06 |  Business

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