REPORTS suggests that BBC newsroom staff are “mutinous” over claims that the broadcaster’s chair helped secure an £800,000 loan for Boris Johnson.
According to The Times, sources at the BBC said there was anger that Richard Sharp had supposedly been involved in the former prime minister’s financial affairs before getting the job.
Sharp has denied all wrongdoing and has said in a statement that his selection process was conducted “by the book”.
On Tuesday, he was asked to explain to MPs why he had failed to tell them about his involvement before his appointment.
The newspaper also reports that Sharp has hired a crisis communication specialist to help him respond to scrutiny.
Sharp, 66, is under investigation by Whitehall’s appointments commissioner and the BBC board after it was revealed that in 2020 he introduced his friend Sam Blyth to Simon Case, the cabinet secretary, to discuss setting up a credit facility for Johnson.
Around that time Sharp was applying for the BBC chairmanship and he took up the job in February 2021.
In a pre-appointment hearing with the Commons digital, culture, media and sport committee, Sharp did not disclose his involvement with Blyth.
Kevin Brennan, a Labour member who sits on the committee, told Times Radio on Monday that Sharp should have told them about the arrangement.
Damian Green, the committee’s acting chairman, said in a letter to Sharp: “Following the recent media reports regarding your appointment as chair of the BBC, the committee would like to invite you to appear before it on the morning of February 7.
“The committee intends to cover the issues raised in your pre-appointment hearing and any developments since then.”
Sharp has already insisted that he did not “know anything” about Johnson’s personal finances.
Asked why he did not disclose the meeting with Case, he said: “I don’t think having a meeting with the most senior civil servant to discuss avoiding a conflict is notifiable conflict in itself.”
A source in the BBC newsroom told The Times the mood was “mutinous”.
There was further controversy on Tuesday as it emerged that Sharp was also involved in the interview last year of Deborah Turness, the BBC’s head of news.
The revelation came in The News Agents podcast, where the former BBC presenter Jon Sopel said it raised questions about the chairman’s separation from newsgathering.
He said: “Someone who had given £400,000 to the Conservative Party was involved in the decision making on who the new head of news would be.
“At the time, I am told, there was enormous disquiet at the top of the BBC from people who had been around news, and editorial policy, for a very long time.”
A spokesman said it was appropriate for Sharp, and other members of the board, to interview the head of news as it was also a position to become the board’s executive director.
The BBC previously said that it “plays no role in the recruitment of the chair and any questions are a matter for the government”.