Unencrypted satellite transmissions
In March 2003 the BBC announced that from the end of May 2003 (subsequently deferred to July 14) it intended to transmit all eight of its domestic television channels (including the 15 regional variations of BBC ONE) unencrypted from the Astra 2D satellite. This move was estimated to save the BBC £85 million over the next 5 years.
While the "footprint" of the Astra 2D satellite was smaller than that of Astra 2A, from which it was previously broadcast encrypted, it meant that viewers with appropriate equipment were able to receive BBC channels "free-to-air" over much of Western Europe. Consequently, some rights issues have needed to be resolved with programme providers such as Hollywood studios and sporting organisations, who have expressed concern about the unencrypted signal leaking out.
"Sexing up" and the Hutton Inquiry
In July 2003, BBC Radio 4's Today programme broadcast a news item quoting a government official suggesting that the Government had "sexed up" the British Government's dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, against the wishes of the Intelligence services. The journalist involved later claimed in a newspaper article that Alistair Campbell, who was then the Prime Minister's Director of Communications and Strategy, was responsible. The British Government strongly denied the claims, which prompted an investigation by Parliament. The situation severely damaged the BBC's relationship with the government. A Ministry of Defence scientist, Dr David Kelly, was then named as the alleged source of the news item in another leaked news briefing. The subsequent suicide of Dr Kelly resulted in an escalation of the conflict between the government and the BBC, during which both sides received severe criticism for their roles in the matter.
The report of the Hutton Inquiry into Dr Kelly's death was extremely critical of the BBC journalist, Andrew Gilligan, and the management processes of the Corporation. In the aftermath both the Chairman of the BBC Gavyn Davies and the Director-General Greg Dyke resigned, followed by Gilligan himself.
The BBC's Royal Charter is currently under review. Although it is widely expected to be renewed in 2006, some proposals have suggested dramatic changes.
The BBC is a nominally autonomous corporation, independent from direct government intervention. It is run by an appointed Board of Governors. General management of the organisation is in the hands of a Director-General appointed by the governors.
The current governors, as of June 22 2004, are:
The current Director-General is
- Michael Grade (Chairman)
- The Lord Ryder of Wensum (Vice Chairman)
- Deborah Bull
- Dame Ruth Deech
- Dermot Gleeson
- Professor Merfyn Jones
- Professor Fabian Monds
- Dame Pauline Neville-Jones
- Angela Sarkis
- Sir Robert Smith
- Ranjit Sondhi