In early 2020, Ofcom announced that they would be appointing Dame Melanie Dawes as CEO, replacing Jonathan Oxley who had been serving as interim CEO since late 2019. At the same time, the UK regulator also announced that the company Chairman, Lord Burns, would stand down, with the government seeking a new Chair more suited to overseeing Ofcom’s increased regulatory powers over internet content…
In early 2020, Ofcom announced that they would be appointing Dame Melanie Dawes as CEO, replacing Jonathan Oxley who had been serving as interim CEO since late 2019. At the same time, the UK regulator also announced that the company Chairman, Lord Burns, would stand down, with the government seeking a new Chair more suited to overseeing Ofcom’s increased regulatory powers over internet content.
Initially, the incoming Chairperson was expected to be in place by the end of 2020. By early 2021, however, no decision had been made and the previous Deputy Chair, Maggie Carver, was raised to the position of interim Chair.
Throughout 2021, Paul Dacre, editor-in-chief of DMG Media, which publishes the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday, and other titles, caused a media storm when it was reported he would be applying for the role. In May, his application was rejected by the interview board, but the process was then controversially restarted, with all the other candidates for the role reportedly rejected by culture secretary Oliver Dowden.
In November, however, before the second round of applications could be judged, Dacre withdrew his application, leaving the position once again with no clear frontrunner.
Now, the government has announced that Conservative peer, Lord Michael Grade, has been selected as the preferred candidate for the position.
Lord Grade, 79, has served in numerous TV and broadcasting roles over the years, including at ITV, the BBC, and Channel 4.
“Ofcom is respected across the globe as a first-rate communications regulator, so I am privileged to be asked to become its chair. The role of Ofcom in British life has never been more important with new responsibilities on the horizon regulating online safety, on top of the ever-changing broadcasting landscape. I look forward to my appearance in front of the DCMS Select Committee to outline what I can bring to this role and how I can help ensure Ofcom is fit for the future,” said Lord Grade of his nomination.
Lord Grade has been noted as an outspoken critic of the BBC, calling its coverage of illegal parties at Downing Street during lockdown “gleeful and disrespectful”. He has also been an advocate for the privatisation of Channel 4, in 2015 calling it a “brilliant experiment” that needed to be “freed up”.
Furthermore, he has been vocally critical of the £159 a year TV licence fee is both “regressive” and “excessive”.
If appointed, Lord Grade will need to the cross-benches in the House of Lords and will give up any non-executive roles that could cause a conflict of interest.
What impact will Ofcom’s increased powers though the Online Safety Bill have on the UK’s telecoms sector? Find out from the experts in discussion at this year’s live Connected Britain event