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BBC chairman Richard Sharp resigns over Boris Johnson loan report – Reuters

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LONDON — BBC Chairman Richard Sharp will step down after a damning report over his appointment as head of Britain’s public broadcaster and a bitter row over a six-figure loan to Boris Johnson.

Sharp, a former investment banker and Conservative donor, was given the main control of the public broadcaster in February 2021, in a move endorsed by the then prime minister.

But, in a report on Friday, independent solicitor Adam Heppinstall found Sharp failed to declare two “perceived potential conflicts of interest” during the nomination process for the BBC job.

Sharp confirmed he would step down at the end of June, although the breach was “inadvertent and insignificant”.

The findings relate in part to Johnson securing an £800,000 loan from financier Sam Blyth when he was Prime Minister, first revealed by reports from the Sunday Times. Sharp introduced Blyth to the UK’s top civil servant, Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, to discuss the potential loan.

Heppinstall found that Sharp told Johnson he wanted to apply to chair the BBC board ‘before he applied in November 2020’, and that he told the then prime minister before his interview. for the position he would do the introduction between Blyth and Cas.

As a result, the report found “a risk of perception that Mr Sharp was recommended for nomination because he assisted…the former Prime Minister in a private financial matter, and/or influenced the former Prime Minister to recommend him by informing him of his request before he submits it.

BBC “tarnished”

In a statement on Friday, Sharp said its breach of UK public appointments rules “was unintentional and not material”, but added: “Nevertheless, I have decided it is right to put the interests of from the BBC.”

The best BBC jobs often come under public scrutiny in the UK. The broadcaster, which is bound by impartiality rules, has faced a series of storms in recent years over its perceived political influence.

Under the BBC’s founding royal charter, the chairman of the BBC is chosen by the UK’s Culture Secretary and Prime Minister, with this decision reviewed by an evaluation committee. Johnson’s successor, Rishi Sunak, will now have to choose the next BBC chairman – while seeking to avoid further accusations of cronyism.

The Sharp line has already prompted calls from the opposition Labor Party for an overhaul of the rules governing key BBC jobs.

“Rishi Sunak should urgently establish a genuinely independent and robust process to replace Sharp in order to help restore the goodwill of the BBC after his government has so tarnished it,” Shadow Culture Secretary Lucy said. Powell.

Footballer-turned-BBC host Gary Lineker – who was embroiled in a recent very public affair with his employer after he attacked the government’s immigration policies – said on Friday: ‘The chairman of the BBC should not be chosen by the government of the day. Not now, never.

Sharp said he had acted “at all times in the public interest and for the good of the BBC”, including fighting for the return of government funding to the broadcaster’s flagship service, World Service, which was subject to heavy cuts at the course of the last decade.

“Presiding over this incredible organization has been an honor,” he added.

This developing story is being updated.



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