Controversial BBC chairman Richard Sharp reportedly helped his close friend get a paid role to advise the company on its editorial standards.
Mr Sharp has put forward Caroline Daniel, a PR executive and former editor of the FT Weekend, for a position in the wake of the Martin Bashir scandal, according to . The Sunday times.
He was a usher at her wedding to ex-Emmerdale actor Christopher Villiers in 2019 – with whom he is also close, the paper reports.
Mr Sharp, already under pressure to resign due to the circumstances surrounding his own appointment, is said to have introduced Ms Daniel to the senior independent director of the BBC who gave her the job.
The appointment left others feeling she was “shoehorning” into the role, which the paper said brought in £15,000 a year for around 15 days’ work.
The former Goldman Sachs banker, 67, reportedly approved her selection for a second position last June as the company’s outside editorial advisor without publicly disclosing their personal ties.
According to the Sunday Times, he did not withdraw from discussions about being appointed to the BBC’s nomination committee, of which he chairs, and did not mention the friendship in his declaration of personal interests.
The newspaper reports that Ms Daniel has stated that the relationship was “fully disclosed with relevant BBC executives at the time” – an account supported by the company – believed to include Director General Tim Davie.
“The relationship with Richard Sharp was fully disclosed to relevant BBC executives at the time, in accordance with BBC requirements,” she said.
Ms Daniel, 51, was appointed to help with the review of editorial standards that followed a scathing report on Bashir’s Panorama interview with Diana, Princess of Wales in 1995.
Among others supporting the review, led by the BBC’s senior independent director Sir Nicholas Serota, were non-executive directors Sir Robbie Gibb and Ian Hargreaves.
A source close to the Serota review told the newspaper: “Other people were uncomfortable with their relationship – they felt like she was being roped into the review. It was helpful to have her perspective, though.
The BBC created two “editorial advisor” positions for outside experts to advise on journalistic standards as a result of the review.
The report will put further pressure on Mr Sharp, who is embroiled in a favoritism for helping former Prime Minister Boris Johnson secure an £800,000 loan in recent months.
An investigation is being launched into the circumstances surrounding his appointment, which was already controversial following donations he previously made to the Conservative Party.
He came under scrutiny again when his position was called into question amid backlash against the BBC’s decision to take sports presenter Gary Lineker off the air for criticizing the language used to promote a new asylum seekers policy. the government, in a tweet compared it to Germany in the 1930s.
MPs have already criticized him for actions that “breach the standards expected of individuals” applying for high-profile public appointments and found him to have made “significant errors of judgement” in a cross-party report last month.
The chairman can only be removed from office by the government – not the BBC – and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has repeatedly refused to defend Mr Sharp, citing the ongoing investigation.
The BBC said it was “completely satisfied” that its processes have been fully complied with.
A BBC spokesperson said: “Following the completion of the Serota Review in Editorial Process, Governance and Culture in October 2021 – and in line with the recommendations in the review – the BBC has appointed two independent, external editorial experts to review the editorial guidelines of the BBC Board and Standards Committee.
“These roles were formally advertised externally and were open to anyone to apply. The nomination process was overseen by the Appointments Committee, in accordance with BBC rules, and appointments were approved by the full BBC Board.
“This process clearly set out the expectations of independence required by the position, and included full disclosure of all relevant conflicts of interest. We are fully satisfied that all processes and procedures have been fully complied with.”
Mr Sharp has been contacted for comment.