BBC Work Culture ‘Needs to Be Rebuilt,’ Says Incoming Chair Richard Sharp at Parliament Grilling

Naman Ramachandran
·2-min read

Richard Sharp, the incoming chair of the BBC, believes that the U.K. public service broadcaster’s work culture needs a serious revamp.

Sharp, a former investment banker with one prior tilt at the org’s top job several years ago, was confirmed last week as the government’s preferred candidate for the job.

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Sharp’s last hurdle before he can take up the position was to appear at a pre-appointment hearing conducted by the U.K. parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, which he did on Thursday.

During a questioning process that lasted nearly two hours, Sharp said his priority was to tackle impartiality issues that the BBC faces.

“Impartiality is clearly the biggest issue,” Sharp told the committee. “Clearly some of the problems it had recently are rather terrible and reflect a culture that needs to be rebuilt so everybody [who] works at the BBC feels proud and happy to work there. Then, in my view, that would produce a better output.”

Sharp said the corporation’s gender pay gap issues have “created, inevitably, a sense of unfairness for people working within the BBC. Whatever these circumstances were that led to differences in pay, that’s not a good culture to have.”

Currently, the U.K. public are required to pay an annual TV license fee of £157.50 ($215.50), which is the primary funding source of the BBC. Failure to pay the fee is a criminal offence. The U.K. government was considering decriminalizing non-payment, but decided to defer the decision until the new chair was appointed.

Sharp isn’t in favor of decriminalization. He said that the fee broke down to 43 pence (58 cents) a day, which is terrific value compared to an average of £400 per year spent on pay TV operator Sky.

When the committee pointed out that neither Sharp nor director general Tim Davie had any editorial experience, Sharp said several people on the board, including members of the editorial standards committee, have considerable editorial experience. “You want diversity on the board in all respects,” said Sharp. “One of those respects [is] the ability to interrogate and help manage them to account.”

If appointed, Sharp will donate the entirety of his £160,000 ($218,900) salary to charity. His intention in applying for the position was to contribute to British society, Sharp said.

Sharp also mentioned that he “inhales” BBC drama and referred to “Fleabag” and “Roadkill.”

Sharp will replace outgoing chair Sir David Clementi and will take charge in February, if appointed.

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