Following his involvement in facilitating an £800,000 ($1 million) loan for then UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Richard Sharp, the Chairman of BBC, has announced his resignation on Friday. This development raised questions about the impartiality of the publicly-funded broadcaster. Sharp, a past donor to the Conservative party, was appointed by the government, and his appointment was criticized by opposition parties. While denying any wrongdoing, Sharp stepped down to avoid being a “distraction from the Corporation’s good work.” However, his past ties to the Conservatives had already caused controversy for both the broadcaster and the government.
Recently, former England star Gary Lineker was suspended from the BBC’s flagship football highlights show, causing anger among critics who raised concerns about Sharp’s close past ties to the Conservatives. The suspension led to other presenters refusing to work, which threw the BBC’s sports schedule across TV and radio into chaos. Sharp-led board later reinstated Lineker in a hurry.
Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer thanked Sharp for his service, and the government has begun the delicate search for a replacement for one of the country’s highest-profile roles. Meanwhile, Sunak, who previously worked with Sharp at Goldman Sachs, refused to rule out another political appointee for the position, stating that he would not “prejudge” the recruitment process.
The leader of the opposition Liberal Democrats, Ed Davey, has criticized the Conservatives for damaging the reputation of the BBC. He expressed his opinion ahead of the local elections scheduled for next Thursday, stating that the Conservatives are incapable of governing the country.
Davey specifically criticized the appointment of Richard Sharp by Boris Johnson, which was later found to be problematic due to Sharp’s failure to disclose potential conflicts of interest. The appointment was investigated by lawyer Adam Heppinstall, who found that Sharp may have been recommended for the position because he assisted Johnson with a private financial matter.
The same committee of MPs had earlier accused Sharp of significant errors of judgment for not disclosing his involvement in the loan. Sharp denied getting the job as a result of helping Johnson and resigned shortly after the inquiry was presented to the government. Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the National Union of
Journalists, welcomed Sharp’s resignation, stating that he had lost the respect of senior figures in the broadcasting industry and damaged the reputation of the BBC.