Search for Ofcom head should rule out previously rejected candidates, MPs say

Committee chief Julian Knight has written to Sarah Fry at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

The recruitment process for a new chief of media watchdog Ofcom should exclude candidates previously ruled out for the job, MPs have said.

The chairman of the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Julian Knight, questioned the way the rerun recruitment campaign is being handled.

Former Daily Mail editor and BBC critic Paul Dacre, thought to be Boris Johnson’s preferred choice for the job, was reportedly deemed “unappointable” for the role in the initial process.

Tory MP Mr Knight has now written to a senior official at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to suggest the new recruitment process should specify that “candidates previously deemed to be unappointable should not re-apply”.

Mr Knight said it would be “extremely alarming if this was a deliberate omission rather than an oversight”.

In his letter to Sarah Fry, head of appointments, honours and awards at DCMS, Mr Knight said the specifications for candidates are “very much identical to the first campaign”.

“We were content with the previous documentation and so are similarly content with the documentation this time,” he added.

“We do note however that the industry standard for rerunning a recruitment campaign would note that candidates previously deemed to be unappointable should not re-apply.

“We would expect that this campaign should contain a similar rubric.”

Mr Dacre edited the Daily Mail for 26 years before stepping down in 2018.

Paul Dacre
Paul Dacre (Iain Crockart/DMGT/PA)

During his editorship he was critical of the BBC, and would regulate the broadcaster if made chairman of Ofcom.

Mr Knight said: “The DCMS Committee has once again had to raise important concerns around the appointments process for the new chair of Ofcom.

“The recruitment process is being rerun despite the absence of any adequate explanation being provided by Government on the need to do so.

“Where a previous candidate has been deemed to be unappointable for a post, they should be ruled out of reapplying. However, this crucial line is missing from the campaign information to recruit Ofcom’s next chair.

“It would be extremely alarming if this was a deliberate omission rather than an oversight and we are seeking clarification.”

A DCMS spokesman said: “The campaign to appoint the chair of Ofcom will be run in compliance with the governance rules for public appointments.”

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