PAC wants permanent role for NAO at the Beeb

Link: Greater independence called for at BBC

He urged the NAO to be given full access rights when the BBC’s charter is reviewed, warning that current arrangements expire in 2006, and may press the case when his committee cross-examines BBC director general Mark Thompson in September.

Leigh spoke out after publication of a report on the ground-breaking first investigation by the NAO into the BBC’s internal affairs, concentrating on their involvement in Freeview, the subscription-free digital service.

The NAO’s conclusion was that this was a sound investment by the BBC which – in Leigh’s words – ‘has reaped some impressive results’.

It also revealed confusion among many licence-payers about Freeview and detailed the BBC’s response to tackling this.

Leigh said: ‘The fact that the NAO has carried out this review is an important enhancement of the BBC’s accountability.’

He warned of the expiry of the arrangement – agreed after the Sharman report recommended the NAO’s scope should be expanded to cover all bodies funded by the government.

And he urged: ‘There is no reason why the BBC should not be as accountable to parliament as any other organisation spending public money.’

The BBC’s Annual Report and Accounts 2003/2004 were published yesterday.

Related reading