Patten tipped to be new chairman of BBC

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 February, 2011, 12:00am

Chris Patten, the last governor of Hong Kong, is set to be named the new chairman of the BBC.

British Prime Minister David Cameron is understood to have approved Patten's appointment as the head of BBC Trust, the broadcaster's governing body, several British newspapers reported yesterday.

The 66-year-old former chairman of the Conservative Party would take over from Michael Lyons, whose four-year term ends in April. Patten beat off competition for the job from Richard Lambert, the former head of the business lobbying group CBI, and Patricia Hodgson, a long-time BBC trustee. The post pays an annual salary of GBP10,000 (HK$1.39 million).

According to The Daily Telegraph newspaper, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt made the recommendation to the prime minister after interviewing candidates. He described Patten as 'head and shoulders' above the other candidates.

Patten would be able to confront the BBC over controversial issues such as expenses and the pay of senior employees, the minister believed. He was also experienced in dealing with highly charged political issues, the paper quoted a senior Culture Department source as saying.

The appointment comes at a difficult time for the BBC. The budget for its World Service radio broadcasts will drop significantly, and the World Service will close five of its 32 foreign language services and end radio programming in another seven, including Putonghua, with the loss of a quarter of its staff during the next three years.

Cameron is likely to announce his backing for Patten this week.

After Hong Kong's handover, Patten served as European Commissioner for external relations until 2004. He has been chancellor of the University of Oxford since 2003 and is a member of the House of Lords.