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Chris Patten tapped to head BBC Trust

Pubcaster seeks clear route through change

LONDON — Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong and a former chairman of the U.K’s right-of-center Conservative Party, is expected to be appointed chair of the BBC Trust next week.

The appointment of Patten, who is 66, needs to be approved by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, who is likely to give his consent.

Patten’s name was one of three forwarded to U.K. media minister Jeremy Hunt earlier this week.

The others were the former editor of the Financial Times, Richard Lambert; and Patricia Hodgson, who used to head the Independent Television Commission, a watchdog organization.

But reports in local media suggest that Hunt told Cameron that Patten, regarded as being on the liberal wing of the Conservative Party, was “head and shoulders” above the other candidates.

Patten will succeed Sir Michael Lyons, whose days were numbered when the Conservative-led coalition government came to power in Blighty last May.

Lyons had been appointed by ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Patten will take over the leadership of the Corp’s sovereign body at a hugely sensitive time for the BBC as it implements big cuts to its U.K. and parts of its overseas activities including the World Service.

While the Trust chairman has no executive responsibilities at the BBC, the job involves shaping the pubcaster’s overall strategy and appointing the BBC director-general who runs the Corp on a day-to-day basis.

He also has to hold management to account in the interests of U.K. license fee payers.

Patten will need to forge a good working relationship with Mark Thompson, the BBC director-general, who has indicated that he wants to stay at the Corp despite the challenge of leading a slimmed-down organization fit for an age of austerity.

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