The UK’s digital switchover programme involves several public and private sector organisations including government departments, Ofcom, other public service broadcasters and Digital UK.
The NAO notes that the BBC will play a leading role in delivering the UK’s switchover to digital television by 2012, and the Trust commissioned the report to ensure that the BBC is well placed to fulfil its commitment to licence fee payers to deliver a UK wide network of digital television.
The NAO has identified three areas where the BBC should act to protect its position.
The NAO recommends that the BBC could further strengthen its oversight of switchover work with independent representation on the project governance board.The Trust endorses the BBC Executive’s decision to involve a non-executive director with appropriate expertise in the overall governance of the switchover programme.
The NAO also recommends measures are put in place for measuring the value for money of the BBC’s £200 million funding of Digital UK.The BBC Executive has undertaken to bolster its existing programme of evaluation following the end of the switchover in the Copeland region and the Trust will monitor progress.
The NAO’s final recommendation is that lessons from the Copeland scheme are incorporated in the procurement of the National Digital Switchover Help Scheme.The BBC Executive notes that there is a weekly updating of information from the Copeland scheme to the national scheme but adds that there is a balance to be struck in terms of waiting for all the data to be available and allowing the successful bidder maximum implementation time before the start of the national scheme. The Trust will also put in place performance indicators for the Help Scheme and ensure that where possible the Copeland experiences feature in the contract.
Additionally the Trust will commission a review to monitor the operational value for money of the Digital Switchover Help Scheme around 2009.
Jeremy Peat, BBC Trustee, said:
"We would like to thank the NAO for carrying out this review which will help the Trust to ensure that the BBC can fulfil its obligations under the Royal Charter to take a leading role in digital switchover whilst achieving value for money for licence fee payers.
"The Trust accepts the report's conclusions and has discussed the NAO's findings and recommendations with the BBC Executive. The Trust is content that the BBC management team's proposed actions are an appropriate response and endorses them. Furthermore, the Trust will continue to scrutinise the BBC's preparations for digital switchover and will commission a review of the Digital Switchover Help Scheme around 2009 to monitor the operational value for money of the scheme."
Sir John Bourn, Comptroller and Auditor General, said:
"The BBC will play a central role in the switchover from analogue to digital television. At this early stage, it is important that they get sensible governance arrangements established.
"This is a major project and things will move quickly. The BBC and NAO have identified a number of issues, and the BBC must be on top of its game to get value from the £800 million they have to spend on providing the help scheme and communicating with viewers."
Jeremy Peat, BBC Trustee
Notes for Editors
It is the responsibility of the BBC Trust, under the Royal Charter, to ensure that value for money is achieved by the BBC through its spending of the licence fee. In order to fulfil this responsibility, the Trust commissions and publishes a series of independent value for money reviews each year in consultation with the Comptroller and Auditor General – the head of the NAO. The reviews are undertaken by the NAO or other external agencies.
The Value for Money review announced today into Digital Switchover Help Scheme to be carried out around 2009 is part of this series of reviews and will assess the operational value for money of the scheme.
The Copeland region in Cumbria is the first to switch to digital television in the UK. The switchover started on October 17 and will end on November 14 2007.
The Comptroller and Auditor General, Sir John Bourn, is the head of the National Audit Office which employs some 850 staff. He and the NAO are totally independent of Government. He certifies the accounts of all Government departments and a wide range of other public sector bodies; and he has statutory authority to report to Parliament on the economy, efficiency and effectiveness with which departments and other bodies have used their resources.
For full details of the organisations and government departments involved in the UK's programme of digital switchover see page 4 of the NAO report.
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