As John Whittingdale prepares the next Royal Charter for the BBC there are reports that the majority of members of the new board could be government appointed. With the possibility of this new system of governance, Gerry writes:
Independent non-executives can deliver many strategic benefits and advantages to board level decision making in many walks of life not just business.
Culture Secretary John Whittingdale has a great opportunity to reform the governance and effectiveness of the BBC. He plans to do this through the creation of a Unitary Board to replace the existing BBC Trust. Since the BBC is an institution that is highly valued, beloved and very significant (both domestically and globally), it is incredibly important he gets the future vision of its board and how exactly the appointments are made just right.
In the heated debate about how to ensure we have a diverse but truly independent BBC board, The Independent Director author Gerry Brown has concerns, questions, and advice about how exactly this could and should be done by Whittingdale.
Sadly, the UK has an unfortunate history of hobbling board level capability through the appointment of friends, chaps like us, fellow travellers and yes men. The consequences of this can be seen in the many scandals affecting business, charities and sport.
My book The Independent Director identifies some non-executive appointment pitfalls John Whittingdale must avoid with these BBC Unitary Board appointments. They include:
- Deciding on an effective selection method to appoint the best possible candidates resulting from a global search
- Limiting the direct involvement of the government in specific appointments to less than half of the board
- Avoiding filling the board with faithful retainers
- Appointing a very diverse board in terms of gender and race
- Having the right balance between expertise in broadcasting and the other board requirements (risk management, strategy, CSR, globalisation, due diligence etc.)
- Avoid designing roles to suit the new Unitary BBC board format
- Avoiding hiring those who are just seeking power, prestige or government influence and patronage
- The appointment of individuals with a strong track record of independence
My book also succinctly outlines some of the strategic and supervisory good governance benefits properly independent non-executive directors contribute to board effectiveness. Truly independent advice that harnesses the diversity of a properly chosen and constituted BBC Unitary Board would retain the Jewel in Crown status the BBC occupies for the UK in the wider world while providing the essential bridge between government, license fee payers, management and society at large.