Rona Fairhead, the chair of the BBC Trust, has quit after Prime Minister Theresa May cancelled David Cameron’s reappointment of her to 2018 and insisted she reapply for the post along with others. Fairhead declined.
Fairhead she would not put her name forward to become the chair of a powerful new governing board that will come into existence in the New Year, after an agreement that would see her switch to the new body without a formal appointments process was ditched.
Commentators say the move marks another move by May to unpick the legacy of her predecessor. Only four months ago Fairhead was told that she would be allowed to stay on as chairman of the BBC until 2018, despite the fact that the BBC Trust, which she currently heads, will be axed at the end of the year. Karen Bradley, the new culture secretary, will confirm on Thursday that a powerful new unitary board will take over the responsibility of governing the BBC, with Ofcom, the media watchdog, becoming the corporation’s official regulator. Fairhead was appointed in 2014. She had apparently persuaded Cameron that she should chair the new governing board, despite Bradley’s predecessor, John Whittingdale, urging the former Prime Minister to force her to apply through an open appointments process.
The lack of transparency over the process led to MPs on the culture, media and sport select committee calling for Fairhead’s “unusual” appointment to be nullified, and government sources said Mrs May had taken heed of the committee’s advice. The chairman’s post has a salary of £110,000 (€129,000), Fairhead stirred controversy early in her tenure when it was revealed she was still being paid £10,000 a day by the bank that had previously employed her.