A conservative peer and BBC critic has been appointed chairman of Ofcom, Britain’s media regulator. Lord Grade of Yarmouth – who as Michael Grade has held senior roles at the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 – was last night named the Government’s preferred choice for the £142,500-a-year role.
The process to find a suitable candidate to chair the watchdog, which oversees broadcasting and telecommunications in the UK, has faced a series of delays since its launch two years ago. Prime Minister Boris Johnson reportedly wanted the role to go to former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre. However, the nomination did not go past a Whitehall recruitment committee.
Lord Grade, 79, beat a shortlist of other candidates for the three-day-a-week role, including Lord Gilbert of Panteg, chairman of the House of Lords’ communications and digital committee since November 2017. In addition to Keeping an eye on the BBC, Channel 4 and ITV, Lord Grade will have to protect children and vulnerable people while on the internet under new ‘online harm’ powers.
The peer will also have to control the conduct of online platforms such as Facebook and Google. Last night Lord Grade said he was ‘privileged’ to be appointed, adding: ‘Ofcom’s role in British life has never been more important with new responsibilities on the horizon for online safety regulation, in addition to the ever-changing broadcasting landscape.”
Last night in Westminster it was claimed that Nadine Dorries, the Culture Secretary, backed Lord Grade against the advice of No 10 who preferred Lord Gilbert, David Cameron’s former political secretary when he was Prime Minister. Didcot’s Lord Vaizey – who was also shortlisted for the role – praised Lord Grade, saying he was a “fantastic choice” and a “strong voice to hold platforms to account”.
Lord Grade laid out his stand to be chairman of Ofcom in a Telegraph interview last month when he attacked the BBC’s ‘aggressive, gleeful and disrespectful’ political coverage. He said: “There seems to be a feeling at the BBC that if you politely ask tough questions your colleagues are going to say, ‘You leave it alone’. It’s a macho culture. It’s unnecessary and I don’t’ I do not like it.
Speaking in the House of Lords in January, Lord Grade rejected calls from BBC bosses for more money to protect key services.
He said: “I wish those on the BBC who have asked for more money from the government will watch their own news and see what is happening, people having to decide whether to heat themselves or eat, and the use increased food banks.”
The veteran broadcast executive, who also ran Channel 4 and ITV, has previously called the £159 annual license fee a ‘regressive tax’, called for sweeping reforms to BBC corporate governance and publicly criticized the broadcaster for not acknowledging his mistakes quickly. .
Speaking to the Telegraph last year, he praised actor-turned-activist Laurence Fox as ‘a voice for those of us who are so sick of intolerance’ and added: ‘I respect people’s point of view, I just don’t respect the tone in which they do it, the woke brigade.
Lord Grade currently sits as a Tory peer in the House of Lords after being appointed by then Prime Minister David Cameron in 2011.
If the appointment is approved, he will move to cross benches and relinquish any non-executive roles that could cause a conflict of interest.
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This notice was published: 2022-03-24 20:04:52