Lyons to ankle BBC Trust

Patricia Hodgson likely to take reins

LONDON — The chairman of the BBC Trust, Michael Lyons, is to stand down when his contract expires next May.

Lyons signalled in July that he wanted to serve a second four-year term, but in a letter to media minister, Jeremy Hunt, he said the role had become too time consuming.

There has been speculation over Lyons’ future at the BBC since the new U.K. Conservative-led coalition administration was formed in May.

Lyons is a one-time Labour politician who was appointed to lead the BBC by the previous U.K. Labour government.

Lyons, an articulate advocate of public service broadcasting and keen TV viewer, was given the demanding job of being the first chairman of the BBC Trust, which replaced the org’s board of governors, in 2007.

The Trust, whose roles include appointing the BBC’s director-general, was formed to provide a more arm’s length relationship with the pubcaster’s executive management, guaranteeing the corp.’s independence and representing license fee payers.

But Lyons’ many critics claimed the Trust had become too much of a “cheerleader” for the BBC.

In his resignation letter to Hunt, who prior to gaining power said he would scrap the Trust, Lyons defended his record.

“I am proud of what we have achieved in safeguarding the BBC’s independence against significant challenge, and bringing the interests of audiences in all their diversity to the center of the BBC’s thinking,” he said.

Lyons, who became involved in spats over talent fees and BBC toppers’ salaries, added that the Trust had “taken openness and transparency to a new level,” and helped to ensure the BBC operated “within clear boundaries.”

Hunt will now begin the search for a new chair.

A favorite candidate is Trust member, Patricia Hodgson, a long-time Conservative supporter and former head of the now defunct U.K. watchdog, the Independent Television Commission.