07 March 2022

Search for candidates to lead Ofcom ‘exhausted’

07 March 2022

The chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee has been told “all possible opportunities” to find the best applicants to fill the role of Ofcom chief have been “exhausted”.

The process to find a suitable candidate for chair of the media watchdog 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 regulator.

Another week, another new instalment of suspense in the ridiculous soap opera that is the race to become Ofcom’s new chair

On Monday, the DCMS Committee chairman, Julian Knight, said he had not been told how many people applied for the position.

In a statement, he said: “Another week, another new instalment of suspense in the ridiculous soap opera that is the race to become Ofcom’s new chair.

“The committee is not after a behind-the-scenes commentary on the appointment process, but this latest cliff-hanger from the DCMS department – which cannot or will not even tell us how many people have applied to audition for the starring role – does make you wonder whether we are heading for a happy ending.

“Anyone who has been following this long drawn-out saga will know that feeling of exhaustion all too well.”

Knight added he had been told by the Permanent Secretary that “all possible opportunities to get the best cast of characters for the next stage have now been exhausted”.

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”.

Committee chairman Julian Knight (House of Commons/PA) (PA Archive)

In January, ministers announced they were reopening the recruitment process and extending the application deadline after a “favourite” to fill the position walked away.

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

“Not content with the outcome of the initial round of interviews, the DCMS department restarted the appointments process using specially employed head-hunters 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.”

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