BBC Trust Chair Chris Patten Resigns, Cites Health Reasons

Chris Patten P

UPDATED: The public broadcaster's editorial standards chief exits following major heart surgery, with vice chair Diane Coyle taking over as acting chairman.


LONDON --BBC Trust chairman Chris Patten is standing down with immediate effect on health grounds following major heart surgery.

Vice chairman Diane Coyle will take over as acting chairman until a successor is appointed, the BBC Trust said May 6.

Patten’s term as BBC Trust chairman was due to end in April 2015.

A former MP, Patten took up the post in May 2011 and has steered the public broadcaster's governance through a slew of policy and era-defining moments for the broadcaster, most notably the fallout from the the former Top of the Pops host Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal and the various reporting missteps and controversies that resulted from the turmoil that saw BBC director general George Entwistle resign after just 54 days in the top job at the U.K. public broadcaster.

It wasn't all sex scandals and high profile management shake-ups on his watch, with Patten also governing the BBC as the broadcaster's London 2012 Olympics coverage was hailed far and wide for its technological and editorial achievement.

Patten’s family has requested that their privacy is respected while he recovers from the surgery.

In a statement Patten said: "As is well known, I underwent angioplasty while in Hong Kong and a cardiac ablation procedure some seven years ago; and since then I have been regularly assessed by my cardiologist."

He went on to day that on April 27 he had experienced serious chest pains and was admitted to a central London hospital.

The following day he was successfully treated with a combination of bypass surgery and angioplasty, he said.

"On the advice of my doctors, however, and having consulted my family and friends, I have concluded that I cannot continue to work at the same full pace as I have done to date, and that I should reduce the range of roles I undertake," Patten said.

"On this basis I have decided with great regret to step down from much the most demanding of my roles – that of chairman of the BBC Trust. This is a position that requires and has received from me 100 per cent commitment, and has been my priority at all times. It would not be fair to my family to continue as before; and equally it would not be fair to the BBC and those it serves not to be able to give that commitment which the role demands."
He said he will take a six week break from any work at all now and has written to the U.K. government to officially resign from his BBC Trust chairmanship.

"In the meantime, Diane Coyle, as vice chairman of the Trust, will serve as acting chair as specified in the Charter, and will continue with her colleagues vigorously to pursue the Trust’s agenda to serve the interests of licence fee payers," he said.

Tony Hall, who has made "such an outstanding start in his first year as [BBC] director-general and who has appointed such an excellent team to help him," will support the BBC Trust, Patten said.

"It has been a privilege to have served as Chairman of the BBC Trust. Like the National Health Service, the BBC is a huge national asset which is part of the everyday fabric of our lives. It is not perfect – what institution is? It always needs to challenge itself to improve. But it is a precious and wonderful thing, a hugely positive influence which benefits greatly from the creativity and dedication of its staff."

Patten also flagged up his intention to break his silence on how to fund the BBC going forward.

"When in due course the future of the BBC is subject to further discussion at Charter Review time, I hope to say more on the issue. For the time being, however, I shall be making no further statement whatsoever about the BBC or my period as Chairman of the BBC Trust."