New BBC Chair Unveiled With Licence Fee Decision Expected Tomorrow

British TV vet Samir Shah has been unveiled as the new BBC Chair, coming with a major decision on the licence fee imminent.

Shah, who runs production company Juniper TV and used to be a senior BBC News exec, has been appointed by the government several months after the resignation of Richard Sharp, who left the corporation after just two years amidst the conflict-of-interest scandal involving the facilitation of a potential loan for Boris Johnson.

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Shah has been working on and off in TV for four decades and is well known in industry circles. He used to run the BBC’s political journalism shows and was a non-exec director during the ‘Crowngate’ affair involving Queen Elizabeth II, at which point he advised Director General Mark Thompson over a scandal that led to the resignation of BBC One Controller Peter Fincham. He bought Juniper in 1998 and has made shows for the likes of the BBC, Channel 4, Nat Geo, Discovery, Netflix and TLC.

Shah replaces Dame Elan Closs Stephens, who had been acting in the role since Sharp’s exit. Sharp left  after a report found he breached appointment rules by failing to declare his role in the Johnson loan scandal. The BBC has since been embroiled in several fresh scandals involving the likes of Gary Lineker and newsreader Huw Edwards.

Shah comes from a media family. His brother Mohit Bakaya runs BBC Radio 4 and his sister Monisha Shah is on the Ofcom content board.

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said he “has a clear ambition to see the BBC succeed in a rapidly changing media landscape, and I have no doubt he will provide the support and scrutiny that the BBC needs to meet the challenges and opportunities of the future.”

Shah added: “If I am able  to put what skills, experience, and understanding of public service broadcasting I have built up during my career to help this brilliant organisation meet the complex and diverse challenges it faces over the coming years, it would be an honour. The BBC has a great place in British life and a unique duty to reach a wide audience right across the country and I will do all I can to ensure it fulfils this in an increasingly competitive market.”

A BBC spokesperson said: “We welcome the announcement that Samir Shah has been selected as the Government’s preferred candidate to take up the role of BBC Chair and look forward to him joining the Board once the formal process has been completed.”

Licence fee decision

His appointment comes with a UK government decision on next year’s licence fee expected in the next 24 hours, which could have huge ramifications for the BBC’s budget over the coming year.

Following two years of a frozen licence fee, the BBC had expected the coming year’s increase to rise with inflation – just shy of 10% – but Prime Minister Rishi Sunak poured cold water on this over the weekend, stating that the public cannot take such a hike at this time due to the cost-of-living crisis.

The government will likely amend the rise to reduce it, which will affect the BBC’s ability to spend money on programs and news. It is already down to the bare bones in some areas and more news cuts were unveiled last week. Insiders expect further cuts if the fee fails to rise by the initially promised amount.

“The BBC’s financial structure is such that inevitably program expenditure will be cut first,” said one source with knowledge of the situation.

Shah also comes in at a time of heavy scrutiny of BBC News, amidst controversy over reporting of the Israel-Hamas war and the after-effects of the Lineker debacle. Reviews into former newsreader Edwards and Russell Brand are also expected to be published shortly.

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