Government says it wants 'strong, big person' to hold BBC to account

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Charles Moore

The Government has said it wants "a strong, big person who can hold the BBC to account” following reports that the Corporation's next chair could be Boris Johnson's former newspaper boss.

The Sunday Times has reported that Prime Minister Boris Johnson offered Charles Moore, his former editor at the Daily Telegraph, the job as next BBC chairman - before the position was even advertised. He also wants Paul Dacre, the ex-editor of the Daily Mail, to become the chair of broadcasting regulator Ofcom, according to the report.

Current Ofcom chairman Terence Burns is due to leave before the end of the year, while BBC chairman Sir David Clementi will stand down in February.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden praised the “strengths” of the two Brexiteers but added that: "Everyone is getting a little bit ahead of themselves with this.”

Dowden told Sky News that the government was seeking "a strong, big person who can hold the BBC to account" and that it was “important that we have genuine, robust scrutiny of the BBC and I'm looking forward to driving that agenda."

He added: “We will be launching shortly the process for the appointment of both the chairman of the BBC and the Ofcom chair and at that point applicants will be welcome to apply for it.”

Lord Moore was Johnson's editor during his time as a columnist for the Daily Telegraph. The Sunday Times reported that the Prime Minister had asked him to take on the BBC chairmanship around a month ago and that it was virtually a "done deal".

Lord Moore, 63, has been a strident critic of the BBC licence fee and has previously accused the Corporation of having "despised" Brexit voters.

Dacre, 71, was editor of the Daily Mail for more than 25 years and was critical of the BBC during his time in charge of the newspaper.

He would help regulate all broadcasters should he take on the Ofcom role.

But Labour criticised the government following the reports of the pair's pending appointments.

Shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens said: "The whole idea of announcing appointments before a process has actually taken place is a bit strange. I think the public will be wondering where the government's priorities are in this, why are they interfering in an open process."

The BBC did not comment on the reports.