Charles Moore and Paul Dacre have reportedly been identified as the UK Conservative government’s picks to be chairman of the BBC and Ofcom respectively. Both figures are well known right wing figures in the media, and would serve to further align the British media with the agenda of number 10.
The pair have been offered the respective jobs by prime minister Boris Johnson, according to The Times.
Dacre, the former editor of the Murdoch-owned Daily Mail, is prime minister Boris Johnson’s preference to replace the outgoing Lord Burns as the chair of media regulator Ofcom. The right wing paper has historically been hostile to the BBC, and has accused it of having a liberal agenda. Dacre’s name has emerged along former Daily Telegraph executive Guy Black, though Dacre is understood to be the preference.
Moore meanwhile is the former editor of The Daily Telegraph (where he hired now-prime minister Boris Johnson as a columnist) and The Spectator. He has been a vocal supporter of Brexit and an opponent of the licence fee, going so far as to being prosecuted for non-payment in 2010. He was also Margaret Thatcher’s biographer, has called for a limit to the number of muslim people in the UK and is a skeptic of the climate crisis.
The two positions are technically non-executive, but they hold the ability to influence both the regulator and the broadcaster – including holding the fate of BBC director general Tim Davie and Ofcom CEO Dame Melanie Dawes in their hands.
While the Times report makes it seem as though these hires are a dead cert, the culture secretary Oliver Dowden has played down the report.
Speaking to Sky News, he said “I think everyone’s getting a bit ahead of themselves with this,” but refused to confirm or deny the report, adding “there’s strengths to both Charles Moore and Sir Paul Dacre.”
For his part, Dowden has been heavily critical of the BBC and has accused it of lacking “diversity of thought” in a thinly veiled attack on the broadcaster for not wholly reflecting the perspective of the government.
Labour shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens criticised the government for leaking the news to the Conservative-friendly Times and has said that its priorities should be elsewhere at present. She told Sky: “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?”
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