The Board of Governors of the BBC was the governing body of the British Broadcasting Corporation. It consisted of twelve people who together regulated the BBC and represented the interests of the public. It existed from 1927 until it was replaced by the BBC Trust on 1 January 2007.
The governors were independent of the Director-General and the rest of the BBC's executive team. They had no direct say in programme-making, but were nevertheless accountable to Parliament and to licence fee payers for the BBC's actions. Although a 'state broadcaster', the BBC is theoretically protected from government interference due to the statutory independence of its governing body.
The Governors' role was to appoint the Director-General (and in earlier years, other key BBC staff). They approved strategy and policy, set objectives, oversaw complaints, and produced Annual Reports that documented the BBC's performance and compliance each year.
The role of chairman of the Board of Governors, though a non executive, was one of the most important positions in British media.
Governors were usually appointed from senior positions in various walks of British society. Appointments were part-time positions and lasted for four (formerly five) years. Four governors were given specific responsibilities: for Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the English regions.
Governors were nominally appointed by the monarch on the advice of ministers. In practice, governors were chosen by the government of the day. This has led to claims of political interference, in particular during the years of Margaret Thatcher's premiership.
The Thatcher government appointed a succession of governors with the apparent intent of bringing the BBC "into line" with government policy. Marmaduke Hussey was appointed chairman of the Board of Governors apparently with the specific agenda of bringing down the then-Director-General Alasdair Milne; this government also broke the tradition of always having a trade union leader on the Board of Governors.
BBC director general Mark Thompson said "staff were “quite mystified” by the rise of Margaret Thatcher but that there was “less overt tribalism” among its journalists.
It has also been suggested that Harold Wilson's appointment of the former Tory minister Lord Hill as chairman of the Board of Governors in 1967 was motivated by a desire to undermine the radical, questioning agenda of Director-General Sir Hugh Greene – ironically Wilson had attacked the appointment of Hill as Chairman of the Independent Television Authority by a Conservative government in 1963.
In January 2004 Gavyn Davies, who had been appointed chairman of the Board of Governors by the Labour government in 2001, resigned in the wake of the Hutton Inquiry. Lord Ryder of Wensum, previously a Conservative Member of Parliament and a member of Margaret Thatcher's personal staff, replaced him as Acting Chairman. It has been claimed that Ryder and other Conservatives on the Board of Governors were effectively responsible for "forcing out" Director-General Greg Dyke, who had not initially believed that his offer of resignation would be accepted by the Governors.
In May 2004, Michael Grade took over as permanent chairman. He was to be the last permanent chairman of the Board of Governors.
The governors as of the board's dissolution on 31 December 2006 were:
William Stephen Ian Whitelaw, 1st Viscount Whitelaw,, often known as Willie Whitelaw, was a British Conservative politician who served in a wide number of Cabinet positions, most notably as home secretary. He served Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher throughout her leadership of the Conservative Party as deputy party leader.
Michael Howard, Baron Howard of Lympne, is a British politician who served as Leader of the Conservative Party and Leader of the Opposition from November 2003 to December 2005. He previously held cabinet positions in the governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major, including Secretary of State for Employment, Secretary of State for the Environment and Home Secretary.
Christopher Francis Patten, Baron Patten of Barnes, is a British politician who was the 28th and last Governor of Hong Kong from 1992 to 1997 and Chairman of the Conservative Party from 1990 to 1992. He was made a life peer in 2005 and has been Chancellor of the University of Oxford since 2003.
Richard Edward Geoffrey Howe, Baron Howe of Aberavon,, known from 1970 to 1992 as Sir Geoffrey Howe, was a British Conservative politician who served as Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1989 to 1990.
Sir Malcolm Leslie Rifkind is a British politician who served in various roles as a Cabinet minister under Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and John Major, including Secretary of State for Scotland (1986–1990), Defence Secretary (1992–1995), and Foreign Secretary (1995–1997).
Stephen James Dorrell is a British Liberal Democrat politician. He served as the Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) for Loughborough between 1979 and 1997 and then for Charnwood from 1997 to 2015.
John Birt, Baron Birt is a British television executive and businessman. He is a former Director-General (1992–2000) of the BBC.
Joel Barnett, Baron Barnett, was a Labour Party politician. As Chief Secretary to the Treasury in the late 1970s, he devised the Barnett Formula that allocates public spending in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Richard Andrew Ryder, Baron Ryder of Wensum, is a British Conservative Party politician. A former Member of Parliament (MP) and government minister, he was made a life peer in 1997 and was a member of the House of Lords from 1997 to 2021.
Sir Michael Checkland was Director-General of the BBC from 1987 to 1992, being appointed after the forced resignation of Alasdair Milne.
Alasdair David Gordon Milne was a British television producer and executive. He had a long career at the BBC, where he was eventually promoted to Director-General, and was described by The Independent as "one of the most original and talented programme-makers to emerge during television's formative years".
Ian Hedworth John Little Gilmour, Baron Gilmour of Craigmillar, was a Conservative politician in the United Kingdom. He was styled Sir Ian Gilmour, 3rd Baronet from 1977, having succeeded to his father's baronetcy, until he became a life peer in 1992. He served as Secretary of State for Defence in 1974, in the government of Edward Heath. He also served in the government of Margaret Thatcher, as Lord Privy Seal from 1979 to 1981.
Sir Anthony Michael Vaughan Salz is a British solicitor. He sat on the Board of Governors of the BBC from 1 August 2004, after the resignation of the former Vice Chairman, Lord Ryder, and was Acting Chairman in 2006 following the resignation of Michael Grade as BBC Chairman on 28 November 2006, Salz became Acting Chairman, and continued in this position until the BBC Trust succeeded the Governors on 1 January 2007.
The National Enterprise Board (NEB) was a United Kingdom government body. It was set up in 1975 by the Labour government of Harold Wilson, to support the government's interventionist approach to industry. In 1981 the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher, combined the NEB with the National Research Development Corporation (NRDC) to form the British Technology Group.
The Conservative Research Department (CRD) is part of the central organisation of the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom. It operates alongside other departments of Conservative Campaign Headquarters in Westminster.
The Zircon affair was an incident in 1986 and 1987 caused by the planned broadcast on the BBC of a television programme about the ultimately cancelled Zircon signals intelligence satellite, as part of the six-part Secret Society series. It raised many important issues in the British constitution, particularly concerning parliamentary privilege and "gagging orders".
Marmaduke James Hussey, Baron Hussey of North Bradley, known as Duke Hussey, was Chairman of the Board of Governors of the BBC from 1986–96, fulfilling two terms in that role.
Sir Robert Michael Marshall,, usually known as Michael Marshall, was a British businessman, politician, cricketer and author.
The BBC Trust was the governing body of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) between 2007 and 2017. It was operationally independent of BBC management and external bodies, and its stated aim was to make decisions in the best interests of licence-fee payers. On 12 May 2016, it was announced in the House of Commons that, under the next Royal charter, the regulatory functions of the BBC Trust were to be transferred to Ofcom.
The Federal Trust for education and research is a think tank that studies the interactions between regional, national, European and global levels of government. Founded in 1945 on the initiative of Sir William Beveridge, it has long made a powerful contribution to the study of federalism and federal systems.