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Conservative peer and ex-broadcaster Michael Grade named as government’s preferred candidate for chair of Ofcom

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Conservative peer and former broadcaster Michael Grade has been named as the government’s preferred candidate for the next chair of Ofcom.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries announced on Thursday afternoon that ministers believe Lord Grade, who has had a long career working in television – including stints at ITV, BBC and nine years as the chief executive of Channel 4 – is the “ideal candidate” for the role.

“I am delighted to announce that Lord Grade is the government’s preferred candidate to be the new chair of Ofcom,” Ms Dorries said in a statement.

“Lord Grade’s experience at the highest level of a number of broadcasters and his expert knowledge of the British media landscape makes him an ideal candidate for this role.

“Going forward, Ofcom has an even more important role to play as the UK’s communications regulator.

“The introduction of the Online Safety Bill will give it new responsibilities and resources to ensure digital platforms tackle illegal and abusive material online.

“I am confident that under Lord Grade’s leadership Ofcom will rise to the challenge with great success.”

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries arrives in Downing Street, London for a Cabinet meeting. Picture date: Wednesday March 23, 2022.
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Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said Lord Grade’s experience made him the ‘ideal candidate’

Lord Grade, who became a peer in January 2011, said he is “privileged” to be asked to become the regulator’s new chairman.

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.

The recruitment for the position, which comes with a £142,000 salary, has taken two years.

The former media executive has spoken in favour of the privatisation of Channel 4 and recently criticised the BBC’s coverage of events such as the Downing Street parties as “gleeful and disrespectful”.

Lord Gilbert of Panteg, former deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, and Lord Moore, former editor of the Daily Telegraph, were both also reportedly in the running for the role.

Read more: Has the government botched the Online Safety Bill?

Former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre was also linked to the role at one stage but withdrew from the race, claiming the civil service had influenced the process because of his right-of-centre “convictions”.

“Ofcom is respected across the globe as a first rate communications regulator so I am privileged to be asked to become its chair,” Lord Grade said in a statement.

“The role of Ofcom in British life has never been more important with new responsibilities on the horizon regulating online safety, on top of the ever changing broadcasting landscape.

“I look forward to my appearance in front of the DCMS Select Committee to outline what I can bring to this role and how I can help ensure Ofcom is fit for the future.”

Ofcom has said it is investigating RT news
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Ofcom has revoked Russia Today’s licence

Ministers were assisted in their decision-making by an advisory assessment panel which included a departmental official and a senior independent panel member approved by the commissioner for public appointments.

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.

Lord Grade, now aged 79, was appointed chairman of the BBC in 2004, resigning two years later when he joined ITV as its executive chairman.

Read more: Russia Today has licence revoked

He relinquished this post in 2009.

The Conservative peer has also been chairman of Ocado, First Leisure Corporation, Camelot, the Charity Fundraising Regulator and Bradford’s Media Museum.

He is also co-founder of theatrical production company GradeLinnit and his uncle is ITV founder Lew Grade.

Among other things Ofcom deals with licencing and complaints to do with radio, television and telecoms.

Earlier this month, for example, the regulator revoked the licence of Russian state-backed news channel Russia Today (RT).

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