India-Born Media Veteran Dr Samir Shah Selected As New BBC Chairman

Dr Samir Shah will now be quizzed by cross-party MPs of the House of Commons Media Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee for pre-appointment scrutiny before formally taking charge of the public service broadcaster.

An image of BBCs office.

Dr Samir Shah, an India-born media executive with over 40 years of experience in TV production and journalism, has been named as the UK government's preferred candidate to take over as the new BBC chairman.

The 71-year-old, who was honoured with a CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth II in 2019 for services to television and heritage, will replace Richard Sharp, who was forced to resign after his communication with former prime minister Boris Johnson came under scrutiny.

Shah will now be quizzed by cross-party MPs of the House of Commons Media Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee for pre-appointment scrutiny before formally taking charge of the public service broadcaster.

"With a career spanning more than 40 years in TV production and journalism, Dr Shah has a wealth of experience to bring to the position of BBC Chair," UK Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said on Wednesday, confirming the selection as per the appointment process.

"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," she said.

The minister said Shah's knowledge of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and his belief in its role as a national broadcaster alongside his extensive work to promote diversity in broadcasting will be invaluable in helping to ensure that the BBC reflects, represents and serves communities across the whole of the UK.

"The BBC is, without doubt, one of the greatest contributions we have made to global culture and one of our strongest calling cards on soft power," Shah said.

"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," he added.

"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," Shah said.

Born in Aurangabad, Shah came to England in 1960 and was previously the head of current affairs and political programmes at the BBC.

The CEO and owner of Juniper, an independent television and radio production company, Shah has also served as a non-executive director of the BBC between 2007 and 2010.

Besides, the Oxford University alumnus is a race relations expert who co-authored the government's Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report in 2021.

More recently, he was named on a three-member panel set up by the government to independently review the unrest that took place in the city of Leicester last year, as community groups clashed in the aftermath of an India-Pakistan cricket match.

As BBC chairman, a three-day-a-week role with an annual salary of 160,000 pounds, Shah will be responsible for upholding and protecting the taxpayer-funded licence fee-operated public broadcaster and ensuring it fulfils its mission to “inform, educate and entertain”.

He will also lead negotiations with the government over the future of the licence fee.

"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," a BBC spokesperson said.

Shah's selection marks a sea change, as it means there will now be a journalist at the top of the BBC.

Although the BBC is politically independent, its chairperson is appointed by the government.

His appointment comes at a challenging time for the BBC, which is looking to make 500 million pounds of savings in the face of high inflation and a two-year freeze on the cost of a TV licence.

The licence fee, which provides most of the BBC's funding, is currently 159 pounds but is due to rise in April in line with inflation.

On Monday, Culture Secretary Frazer said an increase to the fee by almost 15 pounds would "absolutely" be too much.

She also said she was looking at how "we fund the BBC going forward".

Shah's half-brother, Mohit Bakaya, is also a BBC veteran as controller of BBC Radio 4.

-With PTI Input

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