BBC chairman Richard Sharp’s position is under increasing pressure after it is claimed he helped a friend get a job as an advisor to the corporation about its editorial standards.
Mr Sharp put forward Caroline Daniel, a public relations executive and former editor of the FT’s Weekend edition, for a position in the wake of the Martin Bashir scandal, according to the Sunday Times.
He has been embroiled in a cronyism row over helping former prime minister Boris Johnson secure an £800,000 loan facility.
An investigation is currently under way into his own appointment in January 2021, which was already controversial following donations he had previously made to the Conservative Party.
Amid the BBC impartiality row over Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker’s tweets, Sir Keir Starmer last week told the Commons his position was “increasingly untenable”.
But on Sunday, Cabinet minister Oliver Dowden, who was culture secretary at the time Mr Sharp was appointed, insisted he has confidence in him as BBC chairman.
He told the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme: “I oversaw the process of the appointment of Richard Sharp.
“First of all, I should say that that was a proper process and I have every confidence in that I know it’s been looked into.”
He added: “I’m confident that we chose the right person to do the job of chairman of the BBC, and I continue to have confidence in him.”
Mr Sharp was usher at Caroline Daniel’s wedding to ex-Emmerdale actor Christopher Villiers in 2019 – with whom he is also close, the Sunday Times said.
Ms Daniel, 51, was appointed to help the BBC with the review into editorial standards that came in the wake of a damning report on Bashir’s Panorama interview with Diana, Princess of Wales in 1995.
Mr Sharp is said to have introduced Ms Daniel to the BBC’s senior independent director who gave her the job.
The appointment left others feeling she had been “shoe-horned” into the role, which paid £15,000 a year for about 15 days’ work, according to the paper.
The former Goldman Sachs banker, 67, then reportedly rubber-stamped her selection for a second position last June as an external editorial adviser to the corporation without publicly declaring their personal ties.
He did not withdraw himself from discussions about the appointment at the BBC nominations committee, which he chairs, or state the friendship in his declaration of personal interests, the Sunday Times said.
The paper reports that Ms Daniel has stated the relationship was “fully disclosed with relevant BBC executives at the time” – an account backed up by the corporation – who are believed to include director-general Tim Davie.
“The relationship with Richard Sharp was fully disclosed with relevant BBC executives at the time, in line with the BBC requirements,” she is quoted as saying.
Those who have already called for Mr Sharp to quit in the last fortnight in the wake of the Gary Lineker row included Roger Bolton, a former senior executive at the BBC, Labour’s shadow Culture Secretary Lucy Powell and the Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey.
The chairman can only be removed from the post by the Government – not the BBC. Rishi Sunak has repeatedly refused to defend Mr Sharp, citing the ongoing investigation.
The BBC said it is “completely satisfied” that its processes had been complied with in full.