The Conservatives have vowed to lay bare the BBC’s accounts to full scrutiny from the National Audit Office for the first time if they get into power.

The party’s election manifesto pledges to “promote and protect a strong and independent BBC” by ensuring the NAO has full access to how the corporation spends its £3.4bn annual licence fee revenues.

For years, the BBC and the BBC Trust have come to blows with spending watchdogs, which have called for information such as talent salaries to be made public. The BBC has always resisted this, arguing that it must remain independent from parliament and the government of the day.

Just last week, the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts accused the BBC of poor project management and an inconsistent approach to the cost of production, urging the corporation to find ways of delivering more efficiency savings.

The BBC Trust is currently tasking the BBC with releasing £1.9bn in savings between 2008/9 and 2012/13.

The 131-page manifesto also cements the party’s pledge to relax cross-media ownership laws in a bid to help local media owners, and to scrap a Labour plan to launch a regional TV news service to replace ITV’s offering.

“Our plans to decentralise power will only work properly if there is a strong, independent and vibrant local media to hold local authorities to account,” the manifesto states. “We will sweep away the rules that stop local newspapers owning other local media platforms and create a new network of local television stations.”