Tory lord Michael Grade is government’s (new) preferred candidate to run Ofcom

The ideal candidate? Michael Grade.

The Tory government’s convoluted quest to find someone sympathetic to them to run the comms regulater Ofcom may soon be at an end.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has said ministers reckon former BBC1 and Channel 4 boss – now a Tory lord – Michael Grade is the “ideal candidate” for the role.

If appointed, Lord Grade will move to the cross-benches in the House of Lords and will give up any non-executive roles that could cause a conflict of interest in his new position.

Is he a good choice, though? Well, he has made some… controversial decisions. In 1985, as controller of BBC1, he launched a vendetta against Doctor Who that led to the show being axed four years later. It was relaunched 16 years later and became the BBC’s flagship drama show.

However, he has spoken in favour of privatising of Channel 4 and recently criticised the BBC’s coverage of events like the Downing Street parties as “gleeful and disrespectful”. So he seems perfect for the Tories’ purposes.

But then, they – including Dorries – already spent years trying to shoehorn Paul Dacre into the role, until he eventually gave up, saying the civil service had prejudiced the process against him because of his right-of-centre “convictions”. We may have different ideas about where the prejudice lies, Paul!

Lord Grade will now appear before MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee for pre-appointment scrutiny on a date yet to be confirmed.

Ofcom deals with licencing and complaints to do with radio, television and telecoms, among other things – and its scope is likely to be expanded hugely by the Online Safety Bill which will give it new responsibilities and resources to ensure online platforms tackle illegal and abusive material.

There may be one fly in the Tory ointment: at 79, one wonders how long Lord Grade will be able to keep a grip on the role. Will they be looking for a new candidate in a couple of years?

Source: Tory peer and ex-broadcaster Michael Grade named as preferred govt candidate for Ofcom chair

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