Analysis

BBC’s Independence Under Scrutiny As It Appoints Tory Donor As Chairman

Editorial

MEDIA independence and private political funding come under scrutiny as the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) appoints a Conservative Party donor and ex-Goldman Sachs banker, Richard Sharp as chairman.

Sharp was also economic adviser to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson when he was mayor of London and has donated more than £400,000 ($554,000) to the Conservative Party.

He has held several senior posts in his 23 years at Goldman Sachs and at one point was the boss of UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak, whom he has also advised in an unpaid role during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The appointment comes at a time when the issue of private political funding is under immense scrutiny worldwide and here at home too. Allegations of corruption involving those close to ruling parties in the procurement of services during the Covid-19 pandemic have been widespread.

Concern over the control of establishment media by big capitalists through shareholding and advertising has been one that has raged for decades. 

Here at home, President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that the Party Political Funding Act will come into effect from 1 April 2021. The law was passed by Parliament in 2018 and signed by him in 2019. 

Through the Act, citizens will get to know the private companies funding political parties and scrutinise their role in government and state owned entities (SOEs). 

The Act prohibits funding of political parties by SOEs and foreign governments. In addition, members of political parties cannot be funded. 

It is ironic that one of the primary roles of Sharp’s chairmanship is to protect the BBC’s independence and formulate its strategic direction. How a man who is publicly a supporter of the Conservative Party will conduct himself impartially is yet to be seen. 

The BBC board chair is appointed by the Queen on the advice of the government and comes with a £160,000 ($221,000) annual salary for three to four days work per week, RT reported. 

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