Indian born Brit Samir Shah to head BBC?

UK ministers are set to pick veteran TV executive Samir Shah as BBC chair to replace Richard Sharp, the former Goldman Sachs banker who resigned earlier this year.

Indian born Brit, Shah, has had a 40-year career in TV and previously served as a BBC non-executive director in 2007 as well as in positions including head of current affairs.

He will face a series of immediate challenges as head of the BBC board, including the renegotiation of the licence fee in the run-up to the renewal of the publicly funded corporation’s charter in 2027.

The decision is expected to be announced as early as Wednesday afternoon, according to two people familiar with the situation. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport declined to comment. Shah declined to comment.

The BBC chair — a political appointment made by the government and signed off by the prime minister — acts as an intermediary between the corporation and ministers often critical of its news coverage, size and budget, reported Financial Times.

Shah has in the past criticised the BBC’s scale and organisational culture as a “monolithic posture that makes it appear anti-competitive”.

Ministers are already planning to choose the lowest possible increase in the licence fee allowable under an agreement struck in 2022. That deal froze the licence fee for two years — meaning a fall in funding for the BBC given soaring inflation — and then set further increases at the rate of inflation.

However, culture secretary Lucy Frazer said this year that she was concerned about the extra burden on households from increasing the licence fee amid the cost of living crisis. On Thursday, Frazer is expected to confirm plans to set this at the lowest rate possible.

To oversee probes into scandals involving BBC personnel

In an interview last month, Lord Michael Grade, chair of the media watchdog Ofcom and a former BBC chair, described the licence fee as a “regressive tax”.

Shah ran his own production company, Juniper Communications, since the 1990s, making shows for the corporation as well as other channels.

He worked in the Home Office Research Intelligence Unit after graduating from Hull and Oxford universities, before joining London Weekend Television in 1979 as a researcher, where he rose to editor of a range of current affairs programmes.

As BBC chair, Shah will also need to oversee several investigations into scandals involving presenters such as Huw Edwards and Tim Westwood.

The government had been under pressure to avoid an obviously political appointment after widespread criticism of the process that chose Richard Sharp.

He quit after an investigation found that he had breached public appointment rules by failing to declare help provided to then prime minister Boris Johnson that led to his securing an £800,000 loan.

Other candidates for the job included current acting chair Dame Elan Closs Stephens, who is popular within the BBC but has been recently forced to defend its position to ministers including Frazer over how the broadcaster describes Hamas and its reporting on the Israel-Gaza war.

Ministers used headhunters to approach a wide net of candidates, although many declined to put their names forward amid expectation that the job would involve considerable firefighting over the next few years.