Anger grows over Government interference in BBC appointment

The new BBC chairman must be a “strong, big person” who can hold the broadcaster to account, a Cabinet minister has said, as the Government faced accusations of interfering in the appointment process.

Monday, 28th September 2020, 7:00 am
Paul Dacre, former editor of The Daily Mail, is said to be in the running
Paul Dacre, former editor of The Daily Mail, is said to be in the running

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden insisted no offers had been made despite reports that Boris Johnson is seeking to appoint Charles Moore, former editor of the Daily Telegraph, to the post.

It was also reported that the Prime Minister wanted ex-Daily Mail editor and vocal BBC critic Paul Dacre to become chairman of broadcast regulator Ofcom.

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Mr Dowden said the process for appointing new chairmen of the BBC and Ofcom would start shortly, with interviews conducted by an independent panel.

He said no offers had been made, adding: “We have a formal process for them to go through so I will be launching shortly the competition for the chair of the BBC.”

However, Mr Dowden told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show he has “conversations with people all of the time” when asked if there had been behind-the-scenes talks with Lord Moore or Mr Dacre offering them the jobs.

The minister earlier told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday that the Government wanted a “strong, big person who can hold the BBC to account” to be its next chairman.

“Similarly, in relation to Ofcom, Ofcom is an enormously important economic regulator... we need strong, credible people to fill those roles and that’s what we will be looking for through the competition process.”

Labour accused the Government of “interfering in an open process and appointment” Shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens told Ridge: “I think the whole idea of announcing appointments before a process has actually taken place is a bit strange and I think the public will be wondering where the Government’s priorities are on this.

“Why are they worrying and interfering in an open process and appointment for BBC and head of Ofcom, both two very senior independent public service posts that carry significant salaries?

“Why are the Government interfering in that sort of thing, when they should be concentrating on getting a grip on test and trace, keeping coronavirus rates under control and getting the economy back on track?”

During his editorship of the Daily Mail, Mr Dacre was highly critical of the BBC, while Lord Moore has previously criticised the criminalisation of people who refuse to pay the licence fee.

Labour peer Andrew Adonis said: “These would be really disgraceful appointments. Neither Paul Dacre at Ofcom nor Charles Moore at the BBC would believe in the mission of the institution they are running. Dacre demonstrably doesn’t believe in impartially and statutorily regulated media and Moore doesn’t believe in public service broadcasting, as his refusal to pay the licence fee demonstrates.”

Ofcom chairman Lord 
(Terence) Burns is due to leave before the end of the year.

BBC chairman Sir David Clementi will stand down in February.


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