Renowned India-born media executive Dr. Samir Shah, boasting over four decades of experience in TV production and journalism, has been designated as the UK government’s favoured candidate to assume the role of the new BBC chairman.
The 71-year-old recipient of a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) from Queen Elizabeth II in 2019 for his notable contributions to television and heritage, is set to succeed Richard Sharp, who resigned amid scrutiny over his communication with former Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Dr. Shah is slated to undergo questioning by cross-party Members of Parliament from the House of Commons Media Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee as part of the pre-appointment scrutiny process before officially assuming leadership of the public service broadcaster.
UK Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer affirmed the selection in accordance with the appointment process, stating, “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.”
Frazer expressed confidence that Dr. Shah’s clear ambition to see the BBC thrive in a rapidly changing media landscape will contribute valuable support and scrutiny, addressing the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for the broadcaster.
Highlighting Dr. Samir Shah’s extensive knowledge of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and his steadfast belief in its role as a national broadcaster, the minister underscored the invaluable nature of his work in promoting diversity within the broadcasting realm.
This, the minister emphasised, will play a crucial role in ensuring that the BBC genuinely reflects, represents, and serves communities throughout the entirety of the United Kingdom.
Acknowledging the BBC as a significant global cultural entity and a key asset in the realm of soft power, Dr. Shah expressed his perspective, stating, “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.”
Asserting the great place the BBC holds in British life and its unique duty to reach a broad audience across the country, Dr. Shah conveyed his commitment, saying, “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.”
Originally from Aurangabad, Dr. Samir Shah arrived in England in 1960, and his noteworthy career includes serving as the head of current affairs and political programs at the BBC. The CEO and owner of Juniper, an independent television and radio production company, Dr. Shah also held the position of non-executive director at the BBC from 2007 to 2010.
An alumnus of Oxford University, Dr. Shah is recognised as a race relations expert, having co-authored the government’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report in 2021.
More recently, he participated in a three-member panel appointed by the government to independently review the unrest in Leicester following clashes among community groups after an India-Pakistan cricket match in the previous year.
Assuming the role of BBC chairman, a position demanding three days a week with an annual salary of £160,000, Dr. Shah shoulders the responsibility of upholding and safeguarding the taxpayer-funded licence fee-operated public broadcaster.
His role also involves ensuring the BBC fulfils its mission to “inform, educate, and entertain”.Dr. Shah will take the lead in negotiations with the government concerning the future of the licence fee.
A spokesperson from the BBC expressed their welcome for the announcement of Samir Shah as the government’s chosen candidate for the role of BBC chair, eagerly anticipating his formal joining of the board once the process is completed.
Shah’s appointment signifies a significant shift, as it introduces a journalist at the helm of the BBC. Despite the BBC’s political independence, the government appoints the chairperson.
The timing of Shah’s appointment is noteworthy as the BBC faces challenges, aiming to achieve £500 million in savings amidst high inflation and a two-year freeze on the TV licence cost. The current licence fee, the primary source of BBC funding, stands at £159 and is set to increase in April in line with inflation.
Culture Secretary Frazer, speaking on Monday, expressed reservations about a nearly £15 increase to the fee, deeming it “absolutely” excessive. She also mentioned ongoing considerations regarding the future funding model for the BBC.
Adding a familial connection, it was highlighted that Shah’s half-brother, Mohit Bakaya, holds a position as a BBC veteran, serving as the controller of BBC Radio 4.