Next week ministers will seek to avoid controversy by appointing a prominent Welsh arts figure as acting chairman of the BBC, following the departure of Richard Sharpe.
Dame Ilan Clos-Stevens is expected to get the nod as interim BBC chief from Culture Secretary Lucy Fraser, according to people briefed on the matter, and is likely to serve in the role for several months, during a crucial period for the public service. broadcaster.
Fraser’s colleagues said they were determined to conduct a thorough search for a permanent replacement for Sharpe, who resigned as BBC chief last month after becoming embroiled in a loan dispute to former prime minister Boris Johnson.
Sharpe, a Tory donor and former Goldman Sachs mentor to Rishi Sunak, has become a controversial figure at the helm of the BBC, but it is unlikely that Clos Stephens will follow suit.
Clos Stephens is a non-executive director on the BBC’s board of directors and serves as a Member for Wales, a professional academic and champion of Welsh arts. She helped shape Aberystwyth University’s focus on communications and the creative industries, and chaired Welsh language broadcaster S4C.
People close to the appointment process for the BBC’s acting chairman said Claus Stevens was seen as a “pair of safe hands” – one describing her as “very experienced and well-respected, but also not seen as wanting to take on the role full-time”. . “.
A BBC insider said: “Ilan is very likeable, well respected and understands the BBC.”
The expected appointment of Claus Stephens as acting chairman at the BBC comes with the support of the company’s board, according to people close to the decision-making process.
The Board can recommend a preferred candidate to Ministers for consideration, but the final decision rests with the Minister for Culture given that the BBC Chairman is a government appointment.
Fraser is expected to support the candidacy of Claus Stevens next week, a senior government insider said.
Claus Stephens is set to take over as BBC chief for some time — as the company plots its next steps to compete in a global TV market increasingly dominated by big US tech groups — since the process to appoint a permanent successor to Sharp hasn’t even officially started.
BBC Vice-President Damon Bovini is seen as a prime candidate to replace Sharpe permanently.
Sharpe announced his resignation as BBC chief last month after an inquiry found he had breached public appointment rules by not making public the aid to Johnson that led to him receiving an £800,000 loan.
He will remain in the post until the end of June and the people involved in the search for the BBC’s acting chief said a permanent replacement may not be in place until the end of the year.
Lord Ed Vaizey, the former culture secretary, said after Sharpe’s resignation that Sunak should ensure the BBC’s appointments process was “impeccable”. The BBC’s leading football presenter, Gary Lineker, said politics should be removed from the process.
The Ministry of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has confirmed that it is appointing an Acting Chairman of the BBC from among the current non-executive members of the Corporation’s Board of Directors. “We will make an announcement in due course,” a spokesman said.
The BBC declined to comment.