David Davis MP comments on appointment of new BBC Chairman


As published in the Daily Express:

THE BBC’s incoming Chairman has come under fire from a leading Tory MP over his comments regarding the corporation’s coverage of Brexit.

Former Goldman Sachs banker Richard Sharp has been appointed the new Chairman of the BBC and will assume his £160,000 a year role next month. The former Tory party donor was grilled on his future role by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee on Thursday.

Appearing before MPs, Mr Sharp defended the BBC’s coverage of Brexit since the EU referendum in 2016.

The 64-year-old told the panel he was “considered to be a Brexiteer” and pointed out there may have been some instances where the representation of views on the BBC were one-sided.

He highlighted the flagship political programme Question Time as an example, but said the overall coverage on the BBC had been “incredibly balanced”.

His response has been questioned by leading backbench Tory MP David Davis.

In a post on Twitter, the former Brexit Secretary said: “The new BBC Chairman thinks its Brexit coverage was unbiased?

“But then he is a London banker.”

Mr Davis added: “He also thinks the license fee is ‘terrific value!’ By what measure?

“The BBC is one of the most wasteful organisations I know of. I fear that this is a wrong appointment. I cannot see what qualifies him for the job.”

The BBC has been accused of appealing to the metropolitan masses in London with its reporting of Brexit and its director-general has admitted previous issues with impartiality.

In the capital, 59.9 percent of people voted to Remain in the EU during the referendum – in some boroughs the figure was more than 70 percent.

When Mr Sharp was asked whether believed the BBC’s coverage of Brexit had been unbalanced, he said: “No, actually I don’t.”

He added: “I believe there were some occasions when the Brexit representation was unbalanced.

“So if you ask me if I think Question Time seemed to have more Remainers than Brexiteers, the answer is yes.

“But the breadth of the coverage I thought was incredibly balanced, in a highly toxic environment that was extremely polarised.”

BBC director-general Tim Davie has previously admitted concerns over impartiality within the corporation and has reiterated his expectations for all employees.

Speaking in September, shortly after taking the role, he said: “If you want to be an opinionated columnist or a partisan campaigner on social media then that is a valid choice, but you should not be working at the BBC.

“We urgently need to champion and recommit to impartiality.”

Mr Sharp also spoke about the BBC licence fee model and described it as the “the least worst” method of funding, but suggested other ways could be implemented.

The £157.50 licence fee is due to stay in place until at least 2027, when the BBC’s Royal Charter ends.

Mr Sharp: “The question is, ‘Is the BBC value for money?’ Yes, it is. How do we raise that money? That is certainly an issue.

“I happen to be satisfied looking at it in a relatively superficial way that the current process is fit for purpose.”

At the committee meeting, Mr Sharp disclosed that he had donated approximately £400,000 to the Conservatives in the past 20 years, plus £2,500 around the time of the last general election.

He also pledged to donate his six-figure salary from the BBC to charity.

Mr Sharp will officially replace Sir David Clementi in the position in February.