The Peacock Committee, 1986
The Peacock Committee, was a review into financing of the BBC. It was initiated by the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher on March 27, 1985 and reporting on May 29, 1986. The committee was led by Professor Alan Peacock. The government had expected the committee to report that the television licence fee used to fund the BBC should be scrapped. However, the Peacock Committee favoured retaining the licence fee as they believed it was the 'least worst' option.The immediate recommendations of the report were:
BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 2 should be privatised.
All television receivers should be built fitted with encryption decoders.
The television licence fee should be indexed to inflation and the BBC should become responsible for the collection of the licence fee.
The licence fee should be extended to car radios.
Pensioners dependent on benefits should be exempt from the licence fee.
Not less than 40% of the BBC’s and ITV's output should be sourced from independent producers.
The transmission space used by the BBC and ITV overnight should be sold.
Censorship should be phased out.
The Broadcasting Act, 1990
The aim of the Act was to reform the entire structure of British broadcasting; British television, in particular, had earlier been described by Margaret Thatcher as "the last bastion of restrictive practices". It led directly to the abolition of the Independent Broadcasting Authority and its replacement with the Independent Television Commission and Radio Authority (both themselves now replaced by Ofcom), which were given the remit of regulating with a "lighter touch" and did not have such strong powers as the IBA; some referred to this as "deregulation". The ITC also began regulating non-terrestrial channels, whereas the IBA had only regulated ITV, Channel 4 and the ill-fated British Satellite Broadcasting; the ITC thus took over the responsibilities of the Cable Authority which had regulated the early non-terrestrial channels, which were only available to a very small audience in the 1980s.
An effect of this Act was that, in the letter of the law, the television or radio companies rather than the regulator became the broadcasters, as had been the case in the early (1955-1964) era of the Independent Television Authority when it had fewer regulatory powers than it would later assume.
The Hutton Report, 2004
The Hutton Inquiry was a British judicial inquiry chaired by Lord Hutton, appointed by the United Kingdom Labour government with the terms of reference "...urgently to conduct an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr David Kelly". On 18 July 2003, Kelly, an employee of the Ministry of Defence, was found dead after he had been named as the source of quotes used by BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan. These quotes had formed the basis of media reports claiming that Tony Blair's Labour government had knowingly "sexed up" the "September Dossier", a report into Iraq and weapons of mass destruction. The inquiry opened in August 2003 and reported on 28 January 2004. The inquiry report cleared the government of wrongdoing, while the BBC was strongly criticised, leading to the resignation of the BBC's chairman and director-general. The report was met with criticism by British newspapers opposed to the Iraq invasion, such as The Guardian and the Daily Mail, though others said it exposed serious flaws within the BBC.
The report was eventually published on 28 January 2004. It ran to 750 pages in 13 chapters and 18 appendices, though this was mainly composed of excerpts from the hundreds of documents (letters, emails, transcripts of conversation, and so on) that were published during the inquiry. The main conclusions were:
There was "no underhand [government] strategy" to name him as the source for the BBC's accusations
Gilligan's original accusation was "unfounded" and the BBC's editorial and management processes were "defective"
The dossier had not been "sexed up", but was in line with available intelligence, although the Joint Intelligence Committee, chaired by John Scarlett, may have been "subconsciously influenced" by the government
The Ministry of Defence (MOD) was at fault for not informing Kelly of its strategy that would involve naming him
The report exonerated the Government much more completely than had been expected by many observers prior to its publication. Evidence presented to the inquiry had indicated:
That the wording of the dossier had been altered to present the strongest possible case for war within the bounds of available intelligence
That some of these changes had been suggested by Alastair Campbell
That reservations had been expressed by experts within the Intelligence Community about the wording of the dossier
That David Kelly had direct contact with the dissenters within the Defence Intelligence Staff and had communicated their reservations (and his own) to several journalists.
That, following Kelly's decision to come forward as one of Gilligan's contacts, Alastair Campbell and Geoff Hoon had wanted his identity made public
That the Prime Minister himself had chaired a meeting at which it was decided that Dr Kelly's name would be confirmed by the Ministry of Defence if put to them by journalists
That Kelly's name had been confirmed after journalists had made multiple suggestions to the MOD press office