We’re used to BBC Chairs being rather lofty types. Stately, magisterial creatures whose cherry noses have been nourished and ruddied by various boardroom decanters.
The post has certainly welcomed its fair share of Pugin-wallpapered poohbahs. Duke Hussey, Sir Christopher Bland. Lords Patten and Grade.
Former FT executive Rona Fairhead’s tastes were so grand, I’m told, colleagues dubbed her Rona Overhead.
Ex-banker Richard Sharp, however, appears cut from a slightly different cloth. Droopy eyed and softly spoken, he seems reassuringly unflappable. Modest even. A wardrobe likely stuffed with suede loafers and lightly frayed shirt collars.
Sort of fellow who arrived in the office on Black Wednesday and insouciantly declared the markets ‘a bit of a rum do’.
Ex-banker Richard Sharp, however, appears cut from a slightly different cloth. Droopy eyed and softly spoken, he seems reassuringly unflappable. Modest even
Yesterday, he made his first appearance in front of the Department for digital, culture, media and sport committee. Unlike his predecessors, Mr Sharp is an unknown quantity.
We don’t know much about him other than he made stacks at Goldman Sachs, and is pals with Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
‘He actually used to work for me,’ Sharp informed the committee nonchalantly with the fondness a crofter might reserve for their favourite spaniel.
Committee chair Julian Knight (Con, Solihull) asked which BBC shows he watched. Or ‘consumed’ as he put it – as though referring to the bill of fare at McDonald’s.
Mr Knight, like everyone else, was beaming in remotely and had positioned himself far too close to his computer – appearing like a wasp crawling over a camera lens. Sharp, 64, admitted to being a fan of Andy Pandy. Crikey, that’s going back a bit.
Anything more recent? Well, he liked Line of Duty and (inhales) sport, apparently.
Sharp said he also enjoyed Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s saucepot creation Fleabag, though had found it a bit embarrassing watching it with his mother. I know the feeling.
We don’t know much about him other than he made stacks at Goldman Sachs, and is pals with Chancellor Rishi Sunak. ‘He actually used to work for me,’ Sharp informed the committee nonchalantly with the fondness a crofter might reserve for their favourite spaniel
The SNP’s John Nicolson (Ochil) had come spoiling for a fight. He flew at Sharp like slurry off a shovel, asking about the panel who had selected him, which he pointed out was made up almost entirely of City bigwigs.
‘There was someone from the National Lottery fund too,’ Sharp politely interjected. ‘Oh, and that makes the difference then,’ Nicolson scoffed.
Sharp’s donations to the Conservative Party were raised. How much had he given them? Sharp was finding this all a little baffling. ‘Around £400,000’ came the reply.
You know, a few quid here and there. Nicolson summoned the grandeur of an outraged QC. George Carman could not have been hammier: ‘Four. Hundred. Thousand. Pounds!’ he gasped.
He suggested such funds may have been better used on more needy causes. Heaven forbid we should all one day have to bow before Mr Nicolson and justify what is an appropriate use of our money.
Two Labour MPs, Alex Davies Jones (Pontypridd) and Julie Elliott (Sunderland C), raised the thorny issue of pay equality. Sharp made polite noises about getting to grips with it. Both women seemed impressed he was at least acknowledging a problem.
Kevin Brennan (Lab, Cardiff W) then engaged Mr Sharp in some rugby banter. We discovered that he’d broken his nose on the rugger pitch as a teenager. I think I could make out the snap mark at the end of his hooter. Ouch.
Brennan then asked about Sharp’s £160,000 salary. Would he have done the job for less? He was hardly short of a bob or two. Sharp insisted he would be donating it to charity. Good for him, though I trust the beneficiary will meet with Commissar Nicolson’s requirements.
He was disappointingly wet on the licence fee. When Steve Brine (Con, Winchester) pressed him about it, Sharp said he thought that generally the British public were quite relaxed about it. Utter rubbish. It’s just something we’re forced to endure. Like queuing or Thought For the Day.
Brine advised Sharp to take a look at something called Dude Perfect. Apparently it’s one of those online channels children now spend their afternoons watching rather than the BBC. ‘This is what you’re up against,’ he warned. Indeed so. And that’s before Sharp gets to all those hundreds of backbiters waiting for him in Broadcasting House.