LONDON (AP) — The British government appointed a new acting chair for the BBC on Friday, five weeks after the resignation of Richard Sharp, who was found to have failed to disclose a potential conflict of interest over his role in arranging a loan more than two years ago for then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer appointed Elan Closs Stephens to serve as acting chair for 12 months starting June 27 or until a new permanent chairperson is appointed, whichever is sooner. Stephens has been on the governing body of the publicly funded national broadcaster since 2010.
Frazer said Stephens has the unanimous support of the board and will “provide stability” for the BBC.
Stephens said the board, under her leadership, will 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,.”
Her time at the helm may well be a sensitive time for the BBC, as the U.K.’s next general election has to take place by January 2025. The BBC always comes under a bigger spotlight in the run-up to elections as it has to maintain strict impartiality in all matters political.
The date of an election rests in the hands of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. With the Conservative Party trailing the main opposition Labour Party in the opinion polls, there’s a widespread belief Sunak won’t call one until the fall of 2024.
Stephens will replace Sharp, who quit in late April after he was found to have helped arrange a line of credit for Johnson, weeks before he was appointed to the BBC post on the government’s recommendation.
Sharp, a former Goldman Sachs banker and Conservative Party donor, has stayed in the role while a successor was found.
Johnson himself was forced to quit last year after a series of scandals over money, ethics and judgment became too much for his Conservative Party colleagues to bear.