The chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee has said he is concerned about a “lack of clarity” over why the selection process for Ofcom chair is being rerun.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has written to the Commissioner of Public Appointments saying he wants a second competition for the £142,500-a-year role at the media regulator.
Former Daily Mail editor and vocal BBC critic Paul Dacre (pictured) was reportedly Boris Johnson’s preferred choice during the initial interviews but rejected by the assessment panel.
DCMS Committee chairman Julian Knight said he would be writing to Dowden to seek assurances that previous candidates for the role did not reapply. The FT reported Dacre is expected to stay in the contest.
Knight said: “We are concerned about the lack of clarity on why the process to appoint a new chair of Ofcom needs to be rerun.
“In this situation, we would expect that previous candidates for the post would not need to reapply and we will be seeking reassurance from the DCMS Secretary of State that this is the case.
“This is not the first occasion on which this committee has raised concerns about the appointments process within the remit of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
“As a result of this unnecessary delay, the communications regulator finds itself without a chair at what could not be a more critical time as the Government prepares to legislate against online harms.”
The assessment panel includes DCMS director general Susannah Storey, former PA chief executive and Daily Express deputy editor Paul Potts, and former BT chief executive Lord Livingston of Parkhead.
A DCMS spokesperson said: “In accordance with the governance code of public appointments, the Culture Secretary has taken the decision to rerun the competition for Ofcom chair.
“We have written to the Commissioner of Public Appointments to inform him of this.”
Dacre edited the Daily Mail for 26 years before stepping down in 2018.
During his editorship he was critical of the BBC – and would regulate the broadcaster if made chairman of Ofcom.
The DCMS Committee confirmed it will carry out a pre-appointment hearing with the Government’s preferred candidate for the post.
Ofcom is expected to gain responsibility for regulating social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter and TikTok under forthcoming online harms legislation.
Picture: Reuters/Toby Melville