Britain’s culture secretary Oliver Dowden has denied a report that the government has asked right-wing commentator Charles Moore and former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre to fill two powerful UK media jobs.
The Sunday Times reported that Moore has been tapped to be the next chair of the BBC, while Dacre is set to be installed as the new chair of UK media regulator Ofcom.
The government is responsible for recruiting for both roles and the Sunday Times said prime minister Boris Johnson wants the pair, both ferocious critics of the BBC, to usher in a “revolution” in UK broadcasting.
Senior government insiders told the newspaper that hiring Moore as a replacement for outgoing BBC chair David Clementi is a “done deal,” while Johnson “wooed” Dacre for the Ofcom job over drinks at Downing Street in February.
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But speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Dowden denied that any decisions have been made prior to the government launching a formal recruitment process.
Asked if Moore and Dacre had been offered the jobs, Dowden said: “No. We have a formal process for them to go through.” Asked if there had been “behind the scenes” talks about the roles, Dowden said: “I have conversations with people all the time… It is not my role to offer them the job.”
Moore, a former Daily Telegraph editor, has waged war on the BBC and its funding the model, the licence fee, for more than a decade. So much so, he was fined by a court in 2010 for not paying the fee.
In a Daily Telegraph column in February, he applauded the BBC’s “global reputation” before reeling off a laundry list of things he does not like about the corporation.
“Here are some weaknesses: entertainment channels, including Radio 1 and Radio 2, which could be better done commercially; a website which crushes competition; a massive, talent-destroying bureaucracy; and, yes, bias,” he wrote.
“This bias is not chiefly party political (though it is certainly anti-Tory). It is politico/cultural – woke, pro-Remain, credulously green, anti-market, obsessed with issues connected with “diversity”, yet itself not truly diverse at all.”
If he were made chair, he would not be responsible for the day-to-day running of the BBC. Rather, he would work to hold BBC director general Tim Davie and his management team to account.
Dacre, meanwhile, ended a 26-year stint as editor of the Daily Mail in 2018. During his tenure, the newspaper was one of the BBC’s loudest critics, lampooning the corporation’s bureaucracy and perceived liberal bias on a near-daily basis. If he were made Ofcom chair, he would be responsible for regulating the corporation and other UK broadcasters.
In a Society of Editors speech two years ago, Dacre predicted that BBC would fade in relevance. “The BBC subsidariat will diminish in power as the streaming giants undermine the licence fee,” he said.
The Sunday Times report on Moore and Dacre alarmed some media watchers. Hugh Grant tweeted:
Coffin. Nail. UK. https://t.co/J7ogcIjeRX
— Hugh Grant (@HackedOffHugh) September 26, 2020