Scottish Government raises ‘profound concerns’ over Ofcom recruitment process

“Profound concerns” have been jointly expressed by the Scottish Government and the Welsh Government over the process to select the next Chair of Ofcom, following a row over the appointment of an ally of Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

In a letter to the UK Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Nadine Dorries, Ministers from both Scotland and Wales have asked to be included in the process and given a role that ensures the selected candidate is “someone who can work impartially and independently in the interests of all the nations”
In a letter to the UK Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Nadine Dorries, Ministers from both Scotland and Wales have asked to be included in the process and given a role that ensures the selected candidate is “someone who can work impartially and independently in the interests of all the nations”

In a letter to the UK Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Nadine Dorries, Ministers from both Scotland and Wales have asked to be included in the process and given a role that ensures the selected candidate is “someone who can work impartially and independently in the interests of all the nations” as they warned that the appointment could have a detrimental impact on public service broadcasting in the UK.

The letter comes after Westminster offered a second chance for former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre to apply for the role, after failing his final interview for the job - with the interview panel saying he was “not appointable”.

Hide Ad

However, while the panel can make recommendations, the decision is in the hands of the Westminster government. Ofcom has wide-ranging powers over television, radio, telecoms and postal services, dealing with licensing and complaints.

The letter has been signed by the Scottish Government’s Culture Secretary Angus Robertson and Finance and Economy Secretary Kate Forbes and the Welsh Government’s Deputy Minister for Arts Dawn Bowden and Deputy Minister for Climate Change Lee Waters.

Hide Ad

It says both governments are “extremely concerned about the perceived lack of impartiality and transparency of the current appointment processes at Ofcom.”

It said: “We regret that UK processes including public appointments being run by your department are failing to show due respect for the role and rights of the devolved governments. Another public appointment process in which we have a role is that of appointing the Nations’ members to the BBC Board.

Hide Ad

The manner in which these appointments are being conducted is also falling below the standards we expect. There has been an unreasonable and unexplained delay, for instance, in the appointment of the BBC Scotland member.”

The letter adds: “Given the importance of public service broadcasting to our nations and the real impact for our nations of any decision on selecting the Ofcom Chair which is not transparent or impartial, 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.”

Hide Ad

Former rail regulator Sir Tom Winsor, Conservative former culture minister Lord Vaizey and Maggie Carver, Ofcom's deputy chair were also believed to have been in the running for the job, however, it was long considered that Mr Dacre, who was editor of the Daily Mail for 25 years, was the preferred candidate of Mr Johnson.

Julian Knight, the chair of the culture select committee and a Conservative MP, said previously that the recruitment process was being restarted without adequate justification and that Dacre should not be allowed to reapply. “Where a previous candidate has been deemed to be unappointable for a post, they should be ruled out of reapplying,” he said.

Hide Ad

However, Lord Parkinson, an arts minister, told the Lords there would be no ban on any applicants and “the recruitment process will be launched imminently”. The final decision will be made by the culture secretary, Nadine Dorries, in consultation with Downing Street.

A message from the Editor:

Hide Ad

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by Coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.

Comments

 0 comments

Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.