So there’s an article about the BBC’s iCan project over at Wired.com: BBC Offers Power to the People. It’s an interesting, if slightly frustrating piece, for a whole range of reasons, but there’s one misconception that I think needs to be cleared up.
“In addition to finding the iCan issues a bit trivial, Kirkcaldy, a 20-year-old antiwar activist, doubts the BBC’s ability, as a government-owned entity, to objectively manage the site’s issues.”
The BBC very clearly and very much is not owned by the government. It’s an organisation originally created by a conglomerate of wireless manufacturers supported by a license fee that gave it financial independence from the Government that was given a royal charter in 1927. From that point onwards it has been answerable in principle only to the British people via the Board of Governors who are appointed to act as trustees for the public interest – ensuring it’s accountable and independent.
That’s not to deny that the BBC has a relationship with government – because members of the Board of Governers are appointed by the Queen under recommendation from the Prime Minister of the day. And the Government has a certain amount of power over the BBC – they approve the level of the license fee for a start (but are in no way responsible for its collection) – but there’s a very specific piece of legislation that guarantees editorial independence that should be evident to anyone who has seen the recent spat between the Labour government and the BBC.