Airey, Highfield, Mahon join BBC review panel

UK culture secretary John Whittingdale has appointed an eight-strong panel to advise the government ahead of UK pubcaster the BBC having its Charter renewed.

The Charter outlines the scope of the BBC’s activities and the licence fee it can command the new panel will meet about six times a year to advise Whittingdale ahead of the new Charter being set.

Dawn-AireyFormer Channel 5 boss and now Yahoo senior VP, EMEA Dawn Airey (right), is on the panel, alongside Ashley Highfield, the former BBC new media boss who now runs local media group Johnston Press.

Collette Bowe, currently chairman of the Banking Standards Board and formerly chair of UK communications regulator Ofcom, will also be part of the advisory group.

alex_mahon_1From the TV world, former Shine Group boss Alex Mahon (left) and former ITN boss Stewart Purvis are also on board.

The panel is completed by Arts Council boss Darren Henley, Shazam CEO Andrew Fisher and digital entrepreneur Lopa Patel.

Whittingdale said: “Each member of the independent advisory group brings individual skills, experience and expertise. Together they will contribute to the oversight of the Government’s Review of the BBC Royal Charter. I look forward to working with them on this important issue.”

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport released the news and noted that the panel members are not representing their current or previous employers. There has, however, been criticism that the group mostly comprises people who have often been at odds with elements of the BBC and the way it is funded and managed.

For example, Airey, who has spent most of her career in commercial television, has previously called for a scaled-back BBC, while Highfield claims local news media outlets are ignored due to BBC prominence.

The specified remit of the group is to provide “expertise, innovation and advice for the process and policy of the review of the BBC Royal Charter and Agreement.” This will be achieved, the DCMS said, by the panel using their personal expertise and experience to provide independent strategic advice in the run up to Charter renewal.

The process is expected to formally begin on Thursday with a government green paper, which will discuss the mandate of the BBC and the potential scrapping of the BBC Trust, which currently regulates the broadcaster.