Next week, Lord Patten will assume the role of chairman of the BBC Trust, but not without ruffling a few feathers first. In a Commons culture, media and sport select committee meeting last month, Patten criticized the BBC for shying away from content that could be considered controversial. Now, a new report and a slew of testimonials have come to light supporting Patten’s claims that the BBC's editorial board has become too heavy-handed.
A report by the International Broadcasting Trust found that content producers were concerned about an attitude of risk aversion within the BBC ranks, though most were not willing to talk about the problem publicly. Others were less tightlipped. "What seems to have happened is a tipping moment, [the] editorial policy unit was there to advise, now it is unclear whether it is advice or instruction, so it's not clear where ultimate editorial power lies," said Fiona Stourton, a former BBC executive producer.
The current culture within the BBC of airing on the side of caution comes after a spate of scandals and snafus involving the broadcasting corporation. Patten says as chairman of the BBC Trust, he will look into the degree of involvement and influence that the BBC’s editorial policy unit has in programming decisions.