Commons committee approves Richard Sharp as BBC chairman

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Appointment of former Goldman Sachs banker Richard Sharp as the next chairman of the BBC is approved by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee

  • The former Goldman Sachs banker faced questions from committee on Thursday
  • Committee chairman Julian Knight said Mr Sharp ‘impressed’ the MPs
  • Mr Sharp was chosen by the Government as its preferred candidate for the post 

A Brexiteer former banker’s appointment as the next BBC chairman has been rubber-stamped by MPs.

The Government’s preferred candidate Richard Sharp was signed off by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee after grilling him at a virtual meeting yesterday.

Mr Sharp – once a mentor to Rishi Sunak at Goldman Sachs – impressed the committee with his grasp of business. 

A report on the session also recognised his understanding of the BBC’s public service commitments and the need to compete in an evolving media landscape.

It said that initial doubts over Mr Sharp’s lack of editorial experience had been overcome – but warned they still had reservations of his ability to tackle the matter of equal pay at the BBC.

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee has approved the appointment of Richard Sharp (pictured) as next BBC chairman

Mr Sharp, who also advised then mayor of London Boris Johnson at City Hall and donated to the Conservatives, will take over from Sir David Clementi in February. 

His in-tray will include thorny issues such as free TV licences for the over-75s and competition from streaming services such as Netflix – plus the pandemic. 

At yesterday’s questioning, Mr Sharp criticised the Corporation’s political programmes for sometimes skewing panellists in favour of Remainers.

Although conceding that the ‘breadth of the coverage’ on Brexit was mostly ‘incredibly balanced’, he pointed to occasions where the debate was not.  

He said: ‘Those people in favour of Remain felt the BBC didn’t appropriately discuss the accuracy of the Brexit campaign.

‘Brexiteers felt that, and there have been studies done, that the representation of Brexiteers on the news and certain programmes, for example Question Time, wasn’t balanced.

‘I suffer like anybody, like each one of you, confirmation bias and the question is, ‘What is the empirical truth?’

‘And there have been studies and there has been some acknowledgement that some aspects of the Brexit coverage, from time to time, was not balanced.’

Asked whether he was a supporter of Brexit, he replied: ‘I am considered to be a Brexiteer.’  

Committee chairman Julian Knight said Mr Sharp 'impressed' the MPs (pictured previously)

Committee chairman Julian Knight said Mr Sharp ‘impressed’ the MPs (pictured previously)

Committee chairman Julian Knight said: ‘Richard Sharp impressed the DCMS Committee with his understanding of how the BBC needs to compete and perform while delivering public service value in a changing media world. We wish him well in the challenges ahead.

‘We have outstanding questions on equal pay at the BBC and it’s a matter of urgency that, as incoming chair, he gets up to speed with these as quickly as possible and comes back to us with answers.

‘We have previously expressed concerns about the way the appointments process was conducted, particularly in the briefing of preferred names at an early stage. 

‘We note that our view is shared by the Commissioner for Public Appointments who recognises the damage done and has called for people briefing on or behalf of ministers to keep their views to themselves.’

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