Downing Street’s second attempt to tap Paul Dacre as chair of Ofcom has reportedly hit a setback, with ministers unable to find people willing to interview the former Daily Mail editor for the job.
Boris Johnson has been trying to appoint Dacre, 72, as chair of the media regulator for more than year, as the government seeks to install friendly figures at the top of Britain’s cultural institutions.
No 10’s initial effort to appoint arch BBC critic Dacre fell apart at the final round of the interview process, when a government-appointed, four-strong advisory committee concluded his strong opinions on the British media made him unsuitable for the job.
Rather than appoint a candidate who had passed the vetting process, ministers scrapped the entire competition – and restarted it from scratch to give Dacre another shot.
But the government is struggling to find credible figures who are willing to sit on the new interview panel, the Guardian reported, with one individual contacted about their interest telling the paper they refused to participate out of fears that their public reputation would be damaged.
The position of Ofcom chair was publicly advertised, but just nine people applied for the job after it became clear that the government wanted to emerge victorious.
Two candidates did pass the vetting process – including, reports suggest, ex-Tory culture minister Ed Vaizey – were rejected by Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary.
A government spokesperson said: “The campaign to appoint the chair of Ofcom will be run in compliance with the governance rules for public appointments.”
Meanwhile, new rules aimed at protecting viewers of streaming platforms from “harmful” material such as misinformation and pseudoscience could be introduced by the government.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said a new consultation could result in streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV+ becoming subject to stricter rules.
‘Protected from harm’
Unlike broadcasters such as the BBC or Sky, streaming platforms are not subject to Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code, which sets out standards for content in areas including offensive material, accuracy, fairness and privacy.
The consultation could mean “audiences – particularly children – receive a consistent level of protection on video-on-demand services as they do on traditional broadcasters”, DCMS said.
Dowden said: “We want to give UK audiences peace of mind that however they watch TV in the digital age, the shows they enjoy are held to the same high standards that British broadcasting is world-renowned for.
“It is right that now we have left the EU, we look at introducing proportionate new rules so that UK audiences are protected from harm.”
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