The next chair of the BBC must help restore the broadcaster's reputation for impartiality, ministers believe, as they prepare to publish a job advert for the role within days.
Amid mounting frustration within Government over the corporation's news programmes, The Telegraph has been told the successful candidate will be tasked with reviving trust in its reporting. Whitehall sources involved in the process of replacing Sir David Clementi, the outgoing chair, also believe applicants for the role will need to be help guide it through "significant reform." This includes the potential decriminalisation of the non-payment of the licence fee, a move which would place further strain on the corporation's finances.
The focus on the BBC's impartiality follows a fresh row last week after Newsnight's policy editor Lewis Goodall was accused of "off the scale" bias for writing for a Left-wing magazine attacking the Government's handling of the exam crisis. While the BBC insisted the article had met its impartiality guidelines, it comes just months after presenter Emily Maitis was reprimanded over a monologue attacking the Government's handling of Dominic Cummings' lockdown trip to Durham.
The new chair will be expected to work closely with Tim Davie, the new director general , who ministers believe is in the "mood to be radical" in shaking up the BBC at a time of major upheaval in broadcasting. It is understood that the £100,000-a-year role will also be "beefed up", reflecting the Government's desire for the next chair to play an influential role in driving through changes.
It comes after the Telegraph last week revealed that former Tory Cabinet minister Nicky Morgan had been touted as a contender , with another believed to come from the tech sector. However, Government insiders have played down suggestions there is a firm favourite to land the job, insisting that ministers are waiting to see who applies before making any judgement.
Speaking to the Telegraph on Saturday, a Government source said: "There is a considerable concern around impartiality and objectivity. It's not that the BBC is left-wing and Labour supporting, it clearly isn't.
"But lots of people think its news programmes seem only to be interested in picking holes in the Government or digging up embarrassing quotes.
"They are far less interested in listening to what ministers have to say than trying to trip them up in a way that is not entirely relevant.
"The job of the Today programme is not to chase headlines, but to ask probing questions. Newsnight is no better. It's a relatively recent trend."
Previously, Downing Street temporarily ordered ministers to boycott BBC Radio 4's Today programme over anger at the broadcaster's general election coverage. The BBC has also come under intense criticism from supporters of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. While critics of the BBC believe it should switch to a subscription model, the source suggested instead that the new chair would need to work with its senior leadership to help it become "leaner, fitter, and concentrating on doing fewer things and doing them better."
"In the new world of broadcasting where there is so much choice the BBC doesn't need to be doing everything. There are big questions about size and scope," they continued.
They also suggested that there was a "greater opportunity" for the corporation to generate greater revenues from its overseas services, such as BBC Worldwide.
The Royal Charter states that the appointment of the chairman may only be made "following a fair and open competition". The Secretary of State must consult the BBC on the process for appointing the chairman, including on the job specification. The search for a new candidate has to be conducted in line with the Governance Code on Public Appointments, a lengthy process which involves a selection panel shortlisting candidates and conducting interviews before preparing a report on the preferred candidate and submitting it to the Culture Secretary.
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