The former editor of British tabloid The Daily Mail, Paul Dacre, could be next to lead U.K. media regulator Ofcom.
According to The Guardian, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is close to appointing the journalist — who ran The Daily Mail from 1992 to 2018 — as chair of the powerful org, which regulates the country’s TV, radio and video on demand sectors. The Guardian, citing Whitehall sources, reported Sunday that Johnson is close to making the appointment and could also reward the 72-year-old Dacre with a peerage.
The potential appointment is controversial due to Dacre’s right-wing political leanings. More recently, under his leadership, the Daily Mail set out a strong pro-Brexit agenda that played a key role in affecting public opinion over the country’s divorce from the European Union.
Ofcom employees are meant to be politically neutral.
While The Guardian notes that the candidate is being met with resistance from some within the government, the news has been welcomed by some Conservative Members of Parliament.
Steve Baker, Conservative MP, told Sky News on Sunday that he was “delighted.” Asked by interviewer Sophy Ridge why Dacre’s appointment was great news, Baker said, “Well, they’re Conservatives. They might actually start to look at the way the media functions and ensure there is some impartiality. I can assure you that from my point of view, time and again during interviews, I’ve felt there was a consensus thought on the side of the broadcaster which was not on the side of moderate mainstream Conservatives.”
In the role, Dacre would also be working to a remit that targets public broadcaster BBC. Reforming the Beeb was one of Johnson’s campaign promises, and while the COVID-19 crisis has somewhat softened the Prime Minister’s vendetta against the corporation — non-payment of the license fee that funds the BBC, for example, will remain a criminal offense — a Dacre appointment would again put the BBC under a microscope.
One aspect of a Dacre-chaired Ofcom, however, that could bode well for the media landscape is the journalist’s reported aversion to the tech giants, due to their impact on the print advertising market.
Although no longer the editor of the Daily Mail, Dacre remains the editor in chief of the tabloid’s publisher, DMG Media, which also owns the Mail on Sunday and free daily newspaper Metro.