The Daily Telegraph

BBC misreporte­d my role in Johnson loan, says chairman


THE chairman of the BBC has accused the corporatio­n’s news department of inaccurate­ly reporting his involvemen­t in a loan to Boris Johnson.

Attempting to explain why he had failed to disclose his role in the reported £800,000 loan until it was uncovered by a newspaper, Richard Sharp criticised his own staff.

BBC journalist­s had “repeated inaccuraci­es”, he claimed, “and have subsequent­ly made correction­s if they have found themselves to be in possession of inaccurate informatio­n”. Mr Sharp said coverage of the story had given him an insight into the issue of impartiali­ty.

“It certainly made me more conscious of the value of the BBC in striving for impartiali­ty and accuracy above and beyond other organisati­ons, and it has also made me aware of the consequenc­es of inaccuracy,” he said.

Mr Sharp was summoned before the digital, culture, media and sport committee of MPS to explain why he withheld informatio­n from it and the panel that interviewe­d him for the BBC role.

He admitted acting as an “introducti­on agency” between Sam Blyth, a cousin of Boris Johnson, and the Cabinet Office, after Mr Blyth told him during “dinner party conversati­on” that he wanted to help the then prime minister.

After a later meeting with Mr Blyth, Mr Sharp went to Simon Case, the Cabinet Secretary, to raise the matter.

At the time, Mr Sharp was applying to become chairman of the BBC. He denied any conflict of interest, insisting that he had done things “by the book” and did not “facilitate” the loan.

Asked repeatedly why he had withheld the informatio­n during his interview process for the role, Mr Sharp said that he had considered the matter closed. His comments about BBC “inaccuraci­es” are likely to fuel opposition to his tenure.

Asked if his position was now untenable, he replied: “Whilst I regret this has happened, I do believe the people of the BBC know that I am striving to protect the BBC and preserve it.”

Richard Ayre, a former controller of editorial policy at the corporatio­n, suggested that Mr Sharp could be out of a job in six months’ time.

He told Roger Bolton’s Beeb Watch podcast: “After the performanc­e today, I think within the BBC there will be very, very considerab­le disquiet among the staff, and among many licence fee payers .

“I think it may well be that Sharp feels the right thing to do is to step down in the fullness of time.”

Asked about the future of the licence fee, Mr Sharp conceded that there were “issues” with the way it was collected from the over-75s and the fact that a disproport­ionate number of women end up being penalised for non-payment.

He said: “It is regressive, in some ways it is considered anachronis­tic.” He also described the system as “imperfect” but added that he had no preferred option.

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