Audio, music dept. under scrutiny at BBC

Review warns of warns of 'growing pressure on resources'

LONDON -- The BBC's overhaul of its compliance procedures mounted in the wake of the Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross obscene phone calls is going in the right direction according to an independent report published Tuesday.

The wide-ranging report looking into the way the BBC's audio and music department monitors its output to prevent a repeat of the Ross/Brand scandal, which led to the resignation of Radio 2 controller Lesley Douglas in October 2008, is broadly positive.

But the review, commissioned by the BBC Trust, warns of a "growing pressure on resources" with "little room for slack" at the Beeb.

The report points to "significant cultural changes" in the way the BBC's audio and music department monitors its output saying senior management had "made strenuous efforts to ensure that compliance measures are effective and widely understood" and that "responsible staff put it into practice with diligence and effectiveness".

But the review called for further training and a "spring clean" of compliance processes, as well as a periodic review to deal with the growth of digital media.

The report, penned by former Ofcom executive Tim Suter and the former Radio Authority chief executive Tony Stoller, also warned of the "significant resource implications" of compliance processes, especially at BBC Radio 4, where much of the programming is commissioned from independent producers.

The report also warned against any reduction in the compliance budget at the pubcaster.

"We have been made aware in the course of our review that there are significant resource implications of the existing compliance processes, especially in relation to independent production," Suter and Stoller said. "The pressure on BBC resources is already heavy. It is unlikely to get any lighter overall. The BBC will face increasing pressure to focus ever more of its spending onto actual content and away from 'overhead' costs."

The duo added that it's not the report's role to argue for more resources to be allocated to compliance but "we wish to reflect what we have observed -- which is that the system, as it is currently being operated, leaves little room for slack."
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