Michael Grade has risen favourable to be Ofcom’s new chair

LONDON (Parliament Politics Magazine) – With the culture secretary expected to take the final call on who will manage the media regulator of the UK this week, Michael Grade has appeared as the frontrunner to become the next chair of Ofcom.

The senior media mogul and Tory politician’s nomination as the organisation’s leader would bring an end to a tumultuous and embarrassing appointment process. Due to a succession of bungled attempts to appoint former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre, the search has taken nearly two years.

The application deadline for the latest round of recruiting, which was managed by senior civil servant Sue Gray, was repeatedly extended in an attempt to attract a wider range of candidates for the £142,000 three-day-a-week post.

Despite this, people familiar with the process of recruitment say the final round is between two peers of Conservative. 

In addition to Lord Grade, Stephen Gilbert, a former deputy head of the Tory Party and former chair of the House of Lords communications select committee, was questioned by Nadine Dorries earlier this month.

Grade, who has held top executive posts at the BBC, Channel 4 and ITV during a media career spanning seven decades, is expected to be given the job by the culture secretary, according to sources familiar with the recruiting process.

His politics are seen to be closer to Dorries’ than Lord Gilbert’s. Grade called the BBC’s coverage of incidents like Partygate “gleeful and disrespectful” earlier this month, and he is a long-time proponent of Channel 4 privatisation.

A spokesperson for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport emphasised that “no final decision” had been made on the winning applicant, though an announcement is expected soon. A pre-appointment hearing will be held in front of parliament for the chosen nominee.

In the summer of 2020, Boris Johnson offered Dacre the job of managing the media regulator over a bottle of wine. However, following an interview with an independent panel, the former Daily Mail editor failed the formal application procedure.

The administration then opted to abandon the entire procedure in order to offer Dacre a second chance, despite having trouble finding persons to sit on the second interview panel for the job.

Even after they found members to serve on the panel, the process was thrown into disarray when Dacre abruptly dropped out, blaming the civil service, the Guardian, and others with a “toxic hatred of Brexit” for working against him.

In the PM’s previous reshuffle, almost the entire ministerial team in the cultural department was removed, with some speculating that the embarrassing failure to gain the Ofcom post was the main reason for the purge.

Kourtney Spak

Kourtney Spak is an american journalist and political commentator. Her journalism career focuses on American domestic policy and also foreign affairs. She also writes on environment, climate change and economy.