PM should not appoint BBC chair, says David Dimbleby

·2-min read
David Dimbleby  (PA Archive)
David Dimbleby (PA Archive)

The Prime Minister should not decide who becomes the next chairman of the BBC, veteran broadcaster David Dimbleby said.

The public broadcaster was plunged into crisis on Friday night as its now former chairman Richard Sharp resigned after an independent report found he had twice breached the rules on public appointments.

He is said to have failed to reveal two “potential conflicts of interests” when he applied for the top job at the corporation.

Stepping down yesterday, he insisted the breaches were “inadvertent” but was quitting because he feared he would “become a distraction from the corporation’s good work”.

The role is decided through a “fair and open competition” – but the Prime Minister has final say.

Mr Dimbleby, 84, the former presenter of BBC Question Time, has ruled himself out of the job.

He said that the current process “creates suspicion about the role of a Prime Minister” and called for a bipartisan board “made up of all political parties” to decide on a person to run the BBC who “sets their politics to one side”.

Speaking to the Today programme, he said the current process “creates suspicion about the role of a Prime Minister”, adding that a new process of appointment was important to ensuring the “subjectivity ... balance and fairness” of the BBC.

The review by Adam Heppinstall, KC, found Mr Sharp had risked the perception he “would not be independent” from the then Prime Minister Mr Johnson.

One of the breaches related to the fact Mr Sharp had informed Mr Johnson he “wished to apply” for the BBC job before formally doing so.

He broke rules again when he told Mr Johnson he was going to try to help a businessman who wanted to “assist” Mr Johnson with his ‘personal finances’ to get an introduction to the cabinet secretary.

“These matters gave rise to a potential perceived conflict of interest,” the report said.

It added there was a “risk of a perception” that he had been recommended for the job because he had “assisted” the former PM in a “private financial matter”.