The BBC has appointed an acting chair following the ousting of Richard Sharp in April.
Elan Closs Stephens has been appointed in the role by the U.K.’s culture secretary Lucy Frazer She will take over from Sharp once he steps down on June 27.
Closs Stephens has been a non-executive director of the board since 2017. Before that she was the BBC Trust’s trustee for Wales and has also been chair of the commercial holdings board for BBC Studios, chair of Welsh broadcaster SC4 and is currently Aberystwyth University’s Pro-Chancellor and Professor Emerita in Communications and Creative Industries.
She will remain acting chair of the BBC until a new, permanent chair is found following a government search and application process.
“It’s a huge honor to be appointed by the secretary of state as acting chair and I am grateful to my fellow board members for putting their trust in me,” said Closs Stephens. “As a board, we will champion the licence fee payer across all of the U.K.; ensure the BBC is a vital partner for the U.K. creative industries; maintain trust and drive change to make the BBC fit for a fast changing media landscape. There is much work to be done.”
Sharp resigned in April after a parliamentary inquiry found he had breached rules for public appointments when he failed to disclose his ties to a loan taken out by then Prime Minister Boris Johnson during the application process. He remained in the post as interim chair in June.
Months before his appointment in Jan. 2021, Sharp, a banker and former chair of the Royal Academy of Arts, attempted to assist Johnson in securing a loan by introducing a friend to one of Johnson’s cabinet ministers. Shortly afterwards Johnson recommended Sharp for the position of BBC chair, with the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (as it was then known) appointing him a short time later.
After news of Sharp’s involvement in Johnson’s financial affairs was published in the U.K.’s Sunday Times newspaper, the DCMS committee conducted an inquiry which found Sharp’s failure to declare the apparent conflict of interest constituted a “significant error of judgment.” Sharp stepped down two months later.
As a publicly-owned broadcaster, the BBC holds a unique place in the media landscape. It operates under a “royal charter” (a royal charter being a way on incorporating an organization and granting it an independent legal personality, similar to a company) via the DCMS. The Prime Minister has the final say on the appointment of the BBC’s chair but will act on the advice of the culture minister.