A letter has been issued to the Government threatening legal proceedings if ex-Daily Mail boss Paul Dacre is hired as the new Ofcom chair.
The letter asks the Government to explain why the competition for Chair is being rerun and why Dacre is being allowed to reapply.
Despite an interview panel deeming him “not appointable” in May this year, ministers have pushed to appoint Mr Dacre, Boris Johnson’s preferred candidate, to the senior role at the UK’s media regulator.
The Government decided to rerun the recruitment process with a different interview panel, and adjusted the role requirements so that Dacre was better positioned to land the job.
For example, the advertisement for the role now includes an amended person specification, from which the requirement for the Chair to work “collegiately” has been removed.
Lawyers acting for political not-for-profit group Good Law Project have written to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and said: “This second competition raises very serious concerns, in particular as to whether it has been held, and designed, in order to favour Mr Dacre’s candidacy.”
Although the Secretary of State is responsible for the appointment of Ofcom’s Chair, Ofcom should be independent of both the Government and the services it regulates.
The appointment process must follow the rules of the Governance Code for Public Appointments: whoever is hired should be selected on merit, openness and fairness.
Good Law Project have demanded the Government to show evidence of this in its procedures and said if the explanation is unsatisfactory, it will issue legal proceedings.
Jo Maugham, Director of Good Law Project, said: “There’s a wider pattern here. When Boris Johnson doesn’t like the outcome of an official process, he tries to rip up the rules and start again. We saw it with the Owen Paterson scandal and we’re seeing it again now with this rigged appointment process.
Paul Dacre departed his role as chair and editor-in-chief of the Daily Mail’s parent company Associated Newspaper, at the start of November. Before this, he was the editor of the Daily Mail from 1992 to 2018.