Ministers concerned over impartiality in appointment process for new Ofcom chair

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(Yui Mok/PA) (PA Archive)
(Yui Mok/PA) (PA Archive)

A group of Scottish and Welsh ministers have said they are “extremely concerned” about a “perceived lack of impartiality and transparency” in the process to appoint a new Ofcom chair.

The four-strong group has written to Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries asking to be included in the process and given a role which ensures the selected candidate is “someone who can work impartially and independently in the interests of all the nations”.

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

Nadine Dorries (Steve Parsons/PA) (PA Wire)
Nadine Dorries (Steve Parsons/PA) (PA Wire)

Former Daily Mail editor and vocal BBC critic Paul Dacre was reportedly Boris Johnson’s preferred choice during the initial interviews.

On Friday, Mr Dacre announced in a letter to The Times that he was withdrawing from the running to become the next chairman of Ofcom.

In their letter, the ministers express concerns about “the ongoing and prolonged process” and how this might “adversely affect the standing of the public service broadcasting system whose duty is to serve all the nations”.

The group claim they wrote to the Culture Secretary’s predecessor, Oliver Dowden, but did not receive a reply.

“Appointment processes that are tarnished, or perceived to be so, might impact on the authority of Ofcom to regulate public service broadcasting for the benefit of all the nations

Scottish and Welsh ministers

“We are extremely concerned about the perceived lack of impartiality and transparency of the current appointment processes at Ofcom,” they write.

“Appointment processes that are tarnished, or perceived to be so, might impact on the authority of Ofcom to regulate public service broadcasting for the benefit of all the nations.”

They add that “involving the devolved governments would return credibility to an appointment process that has been tarnished by delays and questions about the real independence of those involved”.

The group go on to say: “We urge you to involve us fully in the process as is right to protect a system which is so important to the public in Scotland and Wales and all the UK.”

A spokesman for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: “The recruitment process is fair and open and in line with the Governance Code for Public Appointments, which clearly sets out that assessment panels must be objective when deciding which candidates meet the criteria for a role.

“The process is regulated by the Commissioner for Public Appointments, who is responsible for ensuring that the appointment is made in accordance with strict guidelines.”

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