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MPs: BBC Chair’s ‘significant errors of judgement’

February 13, 2023

By Colin Mann

BBC Chair Richard Sharp made ‘significant errors of judgement’ when failing to declare his role in the facilitation of a loan to the then Prime Minister Boris Johnson and should reflect on the potential damage caused to trust in the Corporation, according to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

The conclusion from the Committee comes following the hearing held with Sharp on February 7th. In its report, the Committee says 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. The report calls it ‘highly unsatisfactory’ that the Committee’s subsequent approval of his appointment has been cited by the Government as a defence that the process was properly followed.

The report calls on Sharp now to consider the impact his actions will have on the trust in him, the BBC and the public appointment process and for the Government and all those involved to ensure future processes are not clouded by partial disclosure.

The Committee also notes that the issue of why the Cabinet Secretary believed Sharp had been giving financial advice to Johnson, which Sharp denies, remains unresolved. The Cabinet Office should clear up the confusion immediately.

“The public appointments process can only work effectively if everyone is open and transparent, yet Richard Sharp chose not to tell either the appointment panel or our Committee about his involvement in the facilitation of a loan to Boris Johnson,” commented Damian Green MP, Acting Chair of the DCMS Committee. “Such a significant error of judgment meant we were not in the full possession of the facts when we were required to rule on his suitability for the role of BBC Chair.”

Lucy Powell, the shadow culture secretary, described Sharp’s position as “increasingly untenable”. “He should be reflecting on whether he’s able to do that very important job,” she told Times Radio. “As the Chair, it’s his job to uphold impartiality and independence in the BBC, and therefore maintain public trust in it. And I think he has to reflect now on whether he is able to carry out that very important function at the top of the BBC

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