Paul Dacre is offered role as chairman of Ofcom

Paul Dacre is offered role as chairman of Ofcom

September 26, 2020

Boris Johnson is wooing former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre to head media watchdog Ofcom after offering anti-licence fee Brexiteer Charles Moore the role of BBC chairman

  • Paul Dacre has been approached by Boris Johnson to become Ofcom Chairman
  • It comes as mandarins try to stop Charles Moore being made Chairman of BBC
  • Mr Dacre, 71, who edited the Daily Mail for 26 years, was wooed by PM at No 10
  • He was asked to consider succeeding Lord Burns, who is is due to step down

Former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre has been approached by Boris Johnson to become Chairman of Ofcom, in the latest example of Downing Street’s determination to shake up the Left-wing establishment.

The attempt to install Mr Dacre at the broadcasting regulator comes as Whitehall mandarins are trying to put the brakes on the Prime Minister’s drive to install Charles Moore – a Brexiteer critic of the BBC – as the Corporation’s next Chairman.

The Mail on Sunday understands that Mr Dacre, 71, who edited the Daily Mail for 26 years until 2018, was wooed by Mr Johnson over drinks at No 10 earlier this year and was asked to consider succeeding Lord Burns.

He is due to step down imminently, after agreeing to go this year rather than complete his four-year term in 2022.

Former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre has been approached by Boris Johnson to become Chairman of Ofcom, in the latest example of Downing Street’s determination to shake up the Left-wing establishment

The attempt to install Mr Dacre at the broadcasting regulator comes as Whitehall mandarins are trying to put the brakes on the Prime Minister’s drive to install Charles Moore (pictured) – a Brexiteer critic of the BBC – as the Corporation’s next Chairman

During ongoing conversations with Downing Street, Mr Dacre said that he was interested, subject to ‘assurances’ about ‘freedom and independence’.

The combination of Lord Moore as BBC Chairman with Mr Dacre at Ofcom would be greeted with dismay at the BBC.

During his tenure at the Daily Mail, Mr Dacre would rail against the bloated bureaucracy and Left-wing bias of the Corporation – but also said that he would ‘die in a ditch’ to preserve it and hoped that it could be saved from itself.

Lord Moore, the former editor of The Daily Telegraph and The Spectator, was revealed by this paper last week to be Mr Johnson’s preferred candidate for BBC Chairman.

He has since accepted an approach to replace Sir David Clementi when he steps down in February and has discussed contractual terms.

However, civil servants at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport have complained to No 10 that the position has to be formally advertised in order to follow ‘due process’.

The Mail on Sunday understands that Mr Dacre, 71, who edited the Daily Mail for 26 years until 2018, was wooed by Mr Johnson (pictured) over drinks at No 10 earlier this year and was asked to consider succeeding Lord Burns

It comes amid an ongoing battle between Downing Street and Whitehall, with Mr Johnson’s influential adviser Dominic Cummings waging war on the power of civil servants to stymie No 10’s operation.

Lord Moore, 63, is a vehement critic of the Corporation’s ‘Leftwing woke values’ and objects to its guaranteed £4 billion-a-year income from the licence fee.

In 2010, he was fined £262 for not possessing a licence, having donated the equivalent sum to charity in protest at the BBC’s refusal to sack Jonathan Ross for making prank calls with comedian Russell Brand to the actor Andrew Sachs.

Allies of Mr Johnson complain that Civil Service selection protocols introduced by Jeremy Heywood when he was Cabinet Secretary forced candidates to jump through ‘hoops’ designed to ensure the selection of ‘members of the same Left-wing cabal’.

Ofcom, which regulates the broadcasting, telecommunications and postal industries, will be at the centre of Government efforts to curb the powers of online giants such as Facebook, which have used their power to cannibalise the revenues of traditional media firms.

It is understood that Mr Dacre was approached because Mr Johnson wanted a candidate with a history of supporting freedom of expression and the freedom of the press and a determination to rein in the giant digital monopolies.

Mr Dacre, who was instrumental in the editorial launch of Mail Online, the world’s largest newspaper website, is said to be keen to ensure that the online giants pay other media outlets – and local papers in particular – for the content they recycle.

Mr Dacre also masterminded the launch of Metro, Britain’s most widely read paper, and chaired a Government review which successfully recommended reducing the 30-year rule under which state documents were kept secret, reducing the period to 20 years.

Appointing Mr Dacre would represent a culture change for Ofcom: Ed Richards, a former chief executive, wrote a Labour manifesto for Tony Blair and was a former head of corporate strategy at the BBC.

In a further blow for the BBC this weekend, its combative current affairs presenter Andrew Neil revealed that he was leaving the Corporation to spearhead rival GB News, which is expected to start broadcasting early next year.

Mr Neil is a close friend of Sir Robbie Gibb, Theresa May’s former Director of Communications, who The Mail on Sunday revealed last month was leading efforts to raise money for the new channel.

The BBC had been in discussions with Mr Neil about a new interview series, but the deal was said to have been ‘too little too late’ for Mr Neil, who will present the new channel’s flagship evening programme as well as being company chairman.

The BBC Chairman job is formally a Royal appointment, on the recommendation of the Culture Secretary.

However, Downing Street will have the final say.

A Government spokesman said: ‘We will launch the application process for the new chair of the BBC shortly.

It is an open recruitment process and all public appointments are subject to a robust and fair selection criteria.’

The process for the Ofcom chairmanship is expected to open next month.

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