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UK government reveals BBC chair pick

The next chair of UK public broadcaster the BBC looks set to be Richard Sharp, a former chair of the Royal Academy of Arts with a background in finance and public service.

Richard Sharp

The UK government has announced Sharp, who spent 23 years working for banking giant Goldman Sachs, as its preferred candidate for the role, which has been held by Sir David Clementi since February 2017.

Sharp will appear before MPs on the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee for pre-appointment scrutiny on January 14 before taking up the role in February.

In the role, Sharp will be paid an annual salary of £160,000 (US$218,000) for three to four days of work per week.

The government said Sharp will bring his extensive experience in global commerce, the creative industries and in public service to lead the BBC board, supporting director general Tim Davie.

A former donor to the Conservative Party, he will take on the role at a crucial time for the UK pubcaster, which faces an uncertain future regarding the way it is funded.

Sharp, who would lead negotiations with the UK government over the future of the licence fee if confirmed in the role, has recently served as a special economic advisor to the UK Treasury, addressing national financial issues arising from the pandemic.

This has included the £500m Film and TV Production Restart Scheme, set up to help UK productions disrupted by an inability to obtain insurance for coronavirus-related risks to get back up and running, and to support them if future losses are incurred due to Covid-19.

Prior to the pandemic, the BBC was under mounting pressure from the Conservative government, with reports suggesting it was looking to abolish the licence fee altogether and replace it with a voluntary subscription.

However, since then the value of public service broadcasting has been recognised, with UK media regulator Ofcom finding over last summer that the Covid crisis has reinforced the importance of PSBs as trusted providers of news and information.

UK culture secretary Oliver 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 is exactly the chair the BBC needs right now. 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.”

Sharp added: “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.”

Under the terms of the BBC’s royal charter, the appointment of the BBC chair is made by the Queen through order in council on the recommendation of ministers.


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