The new BBC chairman has warned the corporation faces “hard choices and tough decisions” as it must “live within our means”.

Veteran TV executive Samir Shah replaces former Goldman Sachs banker Richard Sharp, who resigned last year after failing to declare his connection to an £800,000 loan made to Boris Johnson.

Since then, Dame Elan Closs Stephens has been acting BBC chairwoman.

BBC chairman
Samir Shah said he wants to safeguard the BBC’s independence (DCMS)

In an email to staff on the first day of his tenure, Shah said the BBC must “adapt and innovate to ensure that the BBC remains relevant and accessible to all”.

Acknowledging an imminent debate on the future of the licence fee, he said: “Whatever our longer-term funding model, there are also nearer-term budgetary pressures and a clear imperative to invest in digital technology now.”

He added: “But we will still need to live within our means in a tough financial situation.

“That involves thinking very hard about what we should stop doing or do very differently. My role – and that of the board – is to work with the organisation as we confront hard choices and tough decisions.”

Shah also stressed the importance of the BBC’s news output, and said: “We must be the home of the most trusted news across the UK and, indeed, the world.

“We must be the home for showcasing the full range of British culture and talent – geographically, of course, but also in terms of class and thought (in all its diversity), alongside race, gender and disability.

“And we must also simply be a home. In a world where there are forces fracturing society, we should be a sanctuary for empathy and understanding. We are a thread that binds the fabric of society, a place where people from all walks of life, with every kind of view, can find something to enjoy.”

He continued: “Arguably the most important of my responsibilities is to safeguard its independence.

“Our reputation here, and in the rest of the world, rests on this fundamental concept. It is the duty of the chair and the board to protect that independence – and it is a duty I promise to discharge.”

He added that while the BBC “continues to hold a unique place in British cultural life”, he joins at a “crucial time” for the corporation when it is competing with streamers and social media for the attention of audiences.

Shah was previously the BBC’s head of television current affairs, and later ran the BBC’s political journalism department at Millbank.

Before his appointment as BBC chairman he was chief executive of award-winning production company Juniper TV, which makes a number of political and current affairs programmes.