BBC chairman resigns over conflict of interest
Posted Apr 28, 2023, 3:43 PMUpdated on Apr 28, 2023, 3:49 PM The question of…
Posted Apr 28, 2023, 3:43 PMUpdated on Apr 28, 2023, 3:49 PM
The question of the independence of the BBC returned to the debate on Friday, after the departure of its president Richard Sharp, swept away in a controversy linked to a conflict of interest. Close to Boris Johnson and donor to the Conservative Party, Richard Sharp was forced to resign, after the submission of an independent report finding a violation of the rules on public appointments.
Funded for the most part by a license fee, the BBC is bound to the greatest neutrality, scrutinized by the regulator who can collect complaints from viewers.
However, the “Sunday Times” revealed in January that the appointment of Richard Sharp, in February 2021, on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, had taken place shortly after his intervention to help Boris Johnson obtain a loan of 800,000 pounds sterling ( 906,000 euro). An element that he had not revealed to the panel responsible for examining the applications.
In his report submitted on Friday, lawyer Adam Heppinstall notes that the Ministry of Culture “asked candidates to declare any conflict of interest in their application and during the interview”. Richard Sharp “failed to disclose potential conflicts of interest,” he concludes.
The person concerned defended himself by saying that this omission was “involuntary”, and that he had never hidden his closeness to the Prime Minister of the time. During the pandemic, he was pro bono advising Rishi Sunak, then finance minister, on the government’s economic response to the pandemic.
Adam Heppinstall considers, however, that the candidate should have made his intervention with Boris Johnson public insofar as his role as president of the BBC involves “maintaining the independence” of the audiovisual group, in accordance with his charge.
The Labor Opposition, through MP Lucy Powell, said the breach had “caused incalculable damage to the reputation of the BBC and significantly undermined its independence. »
Under fire from critics
The BBC reunites regularly come under fire from Conservative critics who accuse him of having biased coverage, particularly on Brexit, and of being too focused on urban elites rather than working cl***es .
During Richard Sharp’s tenure, the BBC went through a serious crisis with the suspension of star presenter Gary Lineker an incident that had already fueled calls for the resignation.
On his twitter account, the sports journalist, former scorer for the England team, violently criticized the British government’s anti-immigrant policy, comparing it with Germany in the 1930s. First suspended for violating the rules of neutrality imposed by the public channel, the presenter had been reinstated following a lively controversy.
It was also during Richard Sharp’s presidency that the channel made a commitment in a savings plan of 500 million euros under pressure from competition from paid platforms and threats to its public funding .