Hunt for new Ofcom boss ‘would put reality TV show to shame’

·2 min read

The chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee has claimed the search for Ofcom’s new chief “would put a reality TV series to shame” after the deadline for new applications was extended again.

The process to find a suitable candidate for the senior position at the media regulator has faced a series of delays since it began two years ago.

The selection is being rerun after an initial round of interviews failed to find a candidate to lead the watchdog.

Former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre was reportedly Boris Johnson’s preferred choice during the initial interviews, but he withdrew from the race, claiming the civil service had influenced the process because of his right-of-centre “convictions”.

Following the announcement on Wednesday that ministers were reopening the recruitment process and extending the application deadline to Wednesday February 2, DCMS Committee chairman Julian Knight issued a statement that was critical of the Government’s decision.

He said: “The search for the next chair of Ofcom goes on in a recruitment process that would put a reality TV series to shame.

“In an unexpected twist to the plot, would-be candidates have been given an extra seven days to apply. Not content with the outcome of the initial round of interviews, the DCMS department restarted the appointments process using specially employed headhunters to get a better field of candidates, only to see a favourite walk away.

“Now, that better field of candidates is not enough. The word shambles has begun to look like an understatement.

DCMS Committee on the work of the BBC
Committee chairman Julian Knight (House of Commons/PA)

“Hopefully in the case of the Ofcom chair, we’ll see DCMS officials making the sort of employment checks on the successful candidate that anyone would expect to avoid any potential for later embarrassment.

“Anyone out there who’s still interested, there’s still time to apply – the new deadline is 23:59 next Wednesday.”

In November, a group of Scottish and Welsh ministers voiced their concerns over the process.

They wrote to Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries asking to be included in the selection and to be given a role which ensures the winning candidate is “someone who can work impartially and independently in the interests of all the nations”.

As well as Lord Dacre, Lord (Charles) Moore, former editor of the Daily Telegraph, was reported to have been encouraged to apply for the role.

In response to Mr Knight’s comments, a spokesperson for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: “The Government is committed to finding the best possible candidate for this role and encourages all those with the required skills and experience to come forward.

“Ministers are extending the deadline for applications by a week to ensure as broad a field of potential candidates as possible.”

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