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BBC chair Richard Sharp faces fresh scrutiny amid Gary Lineker impartiality row


BC chairman Richard Sharp is facing growing pressure to resign as the corporation’s policy on impartiality has been challenged after Gary Lineker was told to stand down from presenting Match Of The Day.

Mr Sharp, who was appointed chairman in February 2021, has been embroiled in a cronyism row over helping former prime minister Boris Johnson secure an £800,000 loan facility in recent months.

An investigation is being undertaken into his appointment but he now faces renewed scrutiny as his position has been brought into question amid the backlash against the BBC’s decision to take Lineker off air for comparing language used to launch a new Government asylum seeker policy with 1930s Germany in a tweet.

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves and shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell both questioned Mr Sharp’s position in light of the Lineker row.

Ms Reeves said on the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme: “He is still in his job. Gary Lineker isn’t able to present the football commentary?”

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She added: “The Tories obviously put a huge amount of pressure on the Government to get rid of Gary Lineker, I don’t remember those same Tory MPs crying about impartiality when those revelations about Richard Sharp came out.”

Ms Powell wrote to Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer to demand that Mr Sharp’s position is “urgently clarified”, saying his involvement in arranging an £800,000 loan facility for Mr Johnson has “profoundly damaged the perception of the BBC’s impartiality and independence from government”.

She added in her letter: “As the ultimate arbiter of these matters, Richard Sharp’s position, which was already increasingly untenable, needs to be urgently clarified.

“He is the one who should be giving staff, viewers and complainants the confidence that the organisation has acted proportionately and fairly. He is totally unable to perform this function.”

She also asked the minister to clarify when the investigation into Mr Sharp’s appointment would be completed.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey also called on Mr Sharp to resign, saying his position is “totally untenable”.

He said in a statement: “This saga has shown failure at the very top of the BBC and the dire need to urgently protect their independence.

“We need leadership at the BBC that upholds our proud British values and can withstand today’s consistently turbulent politics and Conservative bullying tactics.

“Sadly, under Richard Sharp’s leadership, this has not been the case: his appointment and position are now totally untenable and he must resign.”

He said the broadcaster must “overhaul their current rules and judgment on impartiality” and that it cannot “play by rules that are so one-sided”.

BBC director-general Tim Davie underlined that he was not responsible for appointing the corporation’s chair when he was asked why Mr Sharp still had a job by BBC News on Saturday.

He said: “In terms of the chairman, I have a lot of responsibilities in this job for thousands of people, one thing I don’t do is the appointment as the chair.

“The way in which the board is hired and that role is a different thing to editorially me running the BBC, making those decisions, trying to be fair, and getting a BBC that is truly impartial.”

In a statement on Saturday, broadcasting union Bectu said it had previously written to Mr Davie about its concerns surrounding Mr Sharp.

Philippa Childs, head of Bectu, said: “Our members and no doubt many others who work at the BBC will be rightly confused why those at the highest levels of the corporation are apparently immune to the stringent guidelines applied to everyone else.”

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