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The BBC and the arms trade: the scandle no one is talking about

The BBC Trust is “the governing body of the BBC”, with the responsibility to ensure that the Corporation delivers on its mission “to inform, educate and entertain.”

The Trust describes itself as “the guardian of license fee revenue”, aiming to make the Corporation “simpler, more efficient and more open.”

It also sets editorial standards, appoints the Director-General and serves as “the final arbiter on complaints.” Established through the 2006 BBC Royal Charter, the Trust, along with the separate executive board, plays a central role in the governance and regulation of the BBC.

As Dan Hind has written for ourBeeb, the Trust’s members are not, to say the least, chosen democratically. There are twelve trustees – four of whom are charged with representing Britain’s Home Nations, one an International Trustee – all formally appointed by the Queen, on the recommendation of government ministers.

Hind also illustrates how experience in journalism has not exactly been a prerequisite for trustees, with CVs instead distinguished by “strong links with the financial sector”, and roles on the boards of energy companies.

Maybe we shouldn’t find this surprising. We’re now at the point where we expect most of our public institutions to be linked, in some way, to banking. Careers in British public service are often stepping stones to careers in finance, and vice versa.

A similar “revolving door” exists with weapons companies, who also have many friends in important places: from the Ministry of Defence, to the Department of Trade and Investment, and even the House of Windsor. Now, it seems, the arms industry will have a representative at the top of the BBC.

Sir Roger Carr, the chairman of Europe’s biggest arms company, BAE Systems, has recently added “Vice-Chair of the BBC Trust” to his CV.


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