BBC’s new chairman Richard Sharp says broadcaster is at heart of British culture

Richard Sharp has described the BBC as being “at the heart of British cultural life” after being appointed as the corporation’s new chairman.

The former Goldman Sachs banker will succeed Sir David Clementi in the position.

Mr Sharp, who was once Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s boss, will take over as the BBC faces scrutiny over equal pay, diversity, free TV licences for the over-75s and competition from streaming services such as Netflix, as well as the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

Richard Sharp
Richard Sharp

He said: “The BBC is at the heart of British cultural life and I’m honoured to be offered the chance to help guide it through the next chapter in its history.”

Mr Sharp will take over the role in February when Sir David stands down.

His appointment has been welcomed by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, who described him as “exactly the chair the BBC needs right now”.

In a statement, Mr Dowden said: “Richard’s leadership in the top flight of finance and commerce, combined with his passion for culture and public service, make him the ideal person for this hugely important role.”

He added: “I’m confident he will drive forward reforms to the BBC to ensure it impartially reflects and serves the needs of all parts of the UK, and evolves to remain a global success that is central to British national life in the decades ahead.”

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden

Mr Sharp will appear before MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee on January 14 for “pre-appointment scrutiny”.

Names previously linked with the post include former chancellor George Osborne and ex-editor of the Daily Telegraph Charles Moore, who reportedly ruled himself out.

Mr Sharp will work closely with new director-general Tim Davie, who is the former chief executive of the BBC’s commercial arm, BBC Studios.

Mr Davie took over from Lord Tony Hall in September and said the corporation needs to keep reforming “with urgency” and stressed it must be “a universal public service”.

Julian Knight, chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (DCMS), commented on reports of Mr Sharp’s appointment prior to it being made official.

He said: “It is disappointing to see this news about the next BBC chairman has leaked out ahead of a formal announcement from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

“The committee previously expressed some concerns over the appointments process, calling for it to be fair and transparent.

“The DCMS committee looks forward to questioning the preferred candidate for the post in a pre-appointment hearing next week on their views at a critical time for the BBC about its role and the future of public service broadcasting more generally.”

Mr Sharp will earn a salary of of £160,000 for three to four days’ work per week.

According to the job description posted online last year, the BBC board “meets at least 11 times a year”.