Ofcom chair selection process to be re-started

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Paul DacreImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Paul Dacre had been one of the leading candidates for the role of Ofcom chair

The process to appoint the new chairman of the broadcasting watchdog Ofcom is to be re-started, the BBC has been told.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has written to the government's Commissioner for Public Appointments saying he wants a second competition.

A new interview panel is now expected to be appointed.

The former editor of the Daily Mail, Paul Dacre, had previously been considered a frontrunner for the role.

According to an article in The Telegraph on Thursday, big tech firms including Google and Facebook - where former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg now helps lead communications - have reportedly lobbied to stop Mr Dacre from getting the job.

But in a statement provided to the BBC, Facebook said: "Neither Nick Clegg, nor anybody else at Facebook has spoken to the culture secretary about the Ofcom chair appointment.

"In a recent meeting with DCMS [Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport] officials, held at their request, Nick simply asked questions about the timing and process, and stressed that Facebook hopes to continue its positive working relationship with Ofcom," it added.

"Any suggestion of a lobbying campaign for or against any individual is simply false."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has written to the government's Commissioner for Public Appointments

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Thursday, former Ofcom board member and ex-ITN editor Stewart Purvis - who has previously helped to select a chair - said: "The fact that there may or may not be lobbying going on in the background, I would not think would normally be thought to be a reason to re-run the process.

"But if you're a government explaining why you are re-running a process, it's something you would probably brief to reporters on The Telegraph to explain the wider background."

Julian Knight MP, who chairs the House of Commons select committee covering digital, culture, media and sport, said he was "concerned about the lack of clarity on why the process to appoint a new chair of Ofcom needs to be re-run".

He said: "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."

Ofcom is the government-approved regulatory and competition authority for the UK broadcasting, telecommunications and postal industry.

Applications for the role of its chair were due in by 26 March and the job advert has not yet been updated.

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