New BBC chair is co-author of Boris Johnson’s controversial race report

Samir Shah claimed ‘race lobby’ didn’t get report which rejected the idea Britain is institutionally racist

Adam Forrest
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 06 December 2023 18:39 GMT
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Racism is 'diminishing' co-author of Boris Johnson’s controversial race report claims

Veteran TV executive Samir Shah, the co-author of Boris Johnson’s controversial race report, has been named the new chairman of the BBC.

The role was vacated by Richard Sharp in a cloud of controversy earlier this year, when the ex-Goldman Sachs banker quit after failing to declare his link to an £800,000 loan made to Mr Johnson.

Mr Shah said he was “delighted” at taking up the role, while culture secretary Lucy Frazer said she had “no doubt” he will “provide the support and scrutiny that the BBC needs”.

The new chairman is best-known for his role co-authoring a much-criticised 2021 race report that dismissed the idea that Britain was institutionally racist.

Mr Shah strongly defended the findings of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report – and claimed the response of the “race lobby” had failed to understand it.

He argued that “class, poverty, family circumstance and geography” played as big a role as race in life outcomes.

Mr Shah also said there was “no doubt” that racial disparity still existed – but insisted that racism was “not sweeping” and was “diminishing” in the UK today.

Commissioned in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests, the report found that institutional racism doesn’t exist. Some commissioners later claimed officials at No 10 helped rewrite the conclusion of the report.

Richard Sharp gave up BBC chair role after he breached rules

Dr Shah said on Wednesday that he was “delighted” to be leading the BBC – describing the broadcaster as “one of our strongest calling cards on soft power”.

Most recently, the television veteran was chief executive of award-winning production company Juniper TV, which makes a number of political and current affairs programmes.

He was previously the BBC’s head of television current affairs, and later ran the BBC’s political journalism department at Millbank.

Mr Shah’s predecessor Mr Sharp was forced to resign in April after he failed to disclose that he had played a role in securing an £800,000 loan to then-PM Mr Johnson.

He was found to have facilitated a meeting with Sam Blyth, the multimillionaire Canadian businessman who was also a distant cousin of Mr Johnson.

Having initially defended his actions in front of MPs, Mr Sharp later accepted the findings of an independent report, which found he breached the governance code for public appointments.

The inquiry ordered by the government found that Mr Sharp had failed to disclose potential conflicts of interest during his application to become BBC chair. Mr Sharp – also a Tory donor – said he was standing down in the interests of the broadcaster.

Dame Elan Closs Stephens has been the acting BBC chairwoman since Mr Sharp’s exit.

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