Sharp resigns as BBC Chairman
April 28, 2023
By Colin Mann
Richard Sharp has quit his role of Chairman at the BBC as a report into whether he had been sufficiently candid about connections with the former Prime Minister concluded he had not. He had become embroiled in a controversy surrounding his involvement in facilitating a loan for former Prime Minister Boris Johnson and had been accused of making “significant errors of judgement” by a Committee of MPs.
A report by Adam Heppinstall KC found he breached the code on public appointments.
The BBC Board said: “We accept and understand Richard’s decision to stand down. We want to put on record our thanks to Richard, who has been a valued and respected colleague, and a very effective Chairman of the BBC. The BBC Board believes that Richard Sharp is a person of integrity.
“Richard has been a real advocate for the BBC, its mission, and why the Corporation is a priceless asset for the country, at home and abroad. He has always had the impartiality of the BBC and a desire to see the organisation thrive at the forefront of his work as Chairman.
“We understand that the UK Government is moving swiftly to begin the process of appointing a new Chairman of the BBC, in line with the terms of the BBC’s Charter.”
“Being the Chairman of the BBC has been an enormous privilege,” said Sharp. “It is an incredible organisation which has never mattered more than it does today, at home in the UK and around the world. I am very proud to have worked with the uniquely talented teams across the BBC. They are the best at what they do and I shall always be their champion.”
Tim Davie, the Director-General of the BBC, said: “On behalf of the BBC Executive, I would like to thank Richard for his service to the BBC and the drive and intellect he brought to his time as Chairman. Working with him over the last two years has been rewarding and Richard has made a significant contribution to the transformation and success of the BBC.” It is being reported – on the BBC – that the DG visited the Chair at home as the report was published. Sharp had given every indication in recent weeks that he intended to stay.
“The focus for all of us at the BBC is continuing the hard work to ensure we deliver for audiences, both now and in the future.”
The BBC Board has asked Sharp to stay on as Chairman until the end of June 2023 while the process to appoint his successor is undertaken. Sharp has agreed to do so in the interest of the Corporation’s stability and continuity.
Acting Chair of the CMS Committee Damian Green MP said:
“The undoubted damage Mr Sharp’s failure to disclose perceived conflicts of interest has caused to trust in the BBC, the public appointments process and to Mr Sharp’s reputation could all have been avoided had he chosen to be more open with the facts when he appeared before the Committee more than two years ago.
Sharp’s resignation shows that pre-appointment hearings should not be seen by candidates as a minor inconvenient hurdle to brushed aside, but as an important part of a process to ensure the right person is appointed to the job. We hope that lessons have been learnt by all those involved so that future appointments are not clouded in the same way and people can have faith in those chosen for public positions.
The Government must now ensure that it recruits a new Chair for the BBC who can demonstrate the integrity and impartiality needed for this role. The Culture, Media and Sport Committee will be looking closely at the process and the resulting proposed candidate in due course.”
A Report from the Committee following a hearing with Sharp in February concluded that he had made ‘significant errors of judgement’ when failing to declare during the appointment process his role in the facilitation of a loan to the then Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
It also said that his omissions denied MPs the opportunity to fulfil their scrutiny role, as they were left without the full facts to make a judgement on his suitability when he appeared before the Committee for a pre-appointment hearing in January 2021.”
Sharp did not disclose in the application process that he had introduced an individual who ended up guaranteeing a personal loan to Boris Johnson of over £800,000. Heppinstall was also unhappy that Sharp let Johnson know he was applying before he did and that there were several leaks implying that the appointment was ‘in the bag’ for the PM’s choice before the appointment process was complete.