Government favorite drops his bid to head UK media watchdog

·2 min read

LONDON (AP) — The man who was once Britain’s most powerful newspaper editor has dropped his bid to head the country’s broadcasting regulator, in a blow to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre was the government’s favorite candidate to be chairman of Ofcom — so much so that when Dacre was rejected by the selection board, the government announced it would rerun the recruitment process.

In a letter published in Saturday’s Times of London newspaper, Dacre, 73, said he was no longer interested in the job, “despite being urged to (reapply) by many senior members of the government.”

Dacre said he believed his conservative views meant he would not be selected.

Speaking of public sector roles, he said that “if you are possessed of an independent mind and are unassociated with the liberal/left, you will have more chance of winning the lottery than getting the job.”

Dacre stepped down in 2018 after 26 years as editor of the right-of-center Daily Mail. During his tenure the newspaper was courted by politicians who feared its power to make or break careers.

The Mail’s online operation — which features less politics and more celebrity snapshots — is one of the world’s most popular news sites.

Ofcom regulates television and radio broadcasters and telecoms firms, and is getting new powers to tackle the contentious issue of regulating online media.

The process of choosing a new chief has become another headache for Johnson, whose government has faced a series of allegations of ethics breaches.

Opposition parties have accused Johnson’s Conservative government of trying to rig the Ofcom selection process in favor of their preferred candidate. The governments of Scotland and Wales, which are not run by Conservatives, expressed concerns on Saturday about “the perceived lack of impartiality and transparency of the current appointment processes at Ofcom.”

The government said the process is fair and open.

The Associated Press

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