Government wants ‘strong, big person' as BBC chairman, Dowden says
The new BBC chairman must be a “strong, big person” who can hold the broadcaster to account, a Cabinet minister has said, as the Government faced accusations of “interfering” in the appointment process.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden insisted no offers had been made despite reports that Boris Johnson is seeking to appoint Charles Moore, former editor of the Daily Telegraph, to the post.
The Sunday Times also said that the Prime Minister wanted ex-Daily Mail editor and vocal BBC critic Paul Dacre to become chairman of broadcast regulator Ofcom.
Mr Dowden said the process for appointing new chairmen of the BBC and Ofcom would be launched shortly, with interviews conducted by an independent panel.
He told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show that no offers had been made, adding: “We have a formal process for them to go through so I will be launching shortly the competition for the chair of the BBC.”
The Cabinet minister earlier told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday that the Government wanted a “strong, big person who can hold the BBC to account” to be the broadcaster’s next chairman.
Labour accused the Government of “interfering in an open process and appointment”.
Shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens told Ridge: “I think the whole idea of announcing appointments before a process has actually taken place is a bit strange and I think the public will be wondering where the Government’s priorities are on this.
“Why are they worrying and interfering in an open process and appointment for BBC and head of Ofcom, both two very senior independent public service posts that carry significant salaries?
“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?”
During his editorship of the Daily Mail, Mr Dacre was highly critical of the BBC, while Lord Moore has previously criticised the criminalisation of people who refuse to pay the licence fee.
Ofcom chairman Lord (Terence) Burns is due to leave before the end of the year, while BBC chairman Sir David Clementi will stand down in February.