Former Financial Times Group CEO Rona Fairhead started her new role as BBC Trust chair on Thursday, vowing to ensure the U.K. public broadcaster’s independence and focusing staff on the importance of meeting the “changing needs” of its audiences.
Fairhead visited the BBC headquarters in central London Thursday morning, near the Trust’s office. The Trust is the governing body of the public broadcaster and was previously led by former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten, who stepped down citing health reasons earlier this year. She is the first female BBC Trust chair.
In an email memo to BBC staff, Fairhead said she couldn’t wait to get started and felt it was a privilege to take on the role. She then outlined her priorities.
“Dear Everyone: Today is my first day as chairman, and I wanted to write to say hello and to say how excited I am to be joining this great organization,” Fairhead wrote. “I feel privileged to be here and can’t wait to get started.”
She added: “The BBC has always been a major part of my life. As a child, it was one of the things that brought my family together. It plays the same role in my family today, though through an increasing array of devices and media, just as it does for families all around the U.K. At the heart of this connection is the enduring excellence and appeal of the BBC’s programs and services that simply couldn’t happen without you.”
Fairhead said she has been struck by the “passion and their commitment” of BBC director general Tony Hall and his team. “They are under no illusions about the challenging environment,” she said, highlighting “the changing viewing patterns, the explosion of choice and the rapid changes in technologies and markets.”
She went on to say, “They understand that they need to operate efficiently and to rectify some of the high-profile issues of the past while building this compelling future.”
Discussing the Trust’s role as a representative of U.K. taxpayers who pay license fees for the BBC, Fairhead said: “In this role, we can help the BBC remain the gold standard in journalism, produce the highest quality, boldest programs and remain the beating heart of the U.K.’s creative and digital world.”
Concluded Fairhead: “We need to defend vigorously the BBC’s independence while holding it accountable to its audience and to its public service mission and ensuring it continues to meet the changing needs of its audiences.”