BBC veterans have warned Downing Street he risks compromising the broadcaster’s independence by saying he wants former Telegraph editor Charles Moore to be the next company chairman before the nomination process does not begin.
Concerns have also been raised about Moore’s commitment to the public broadcaster, given that he has serial criticized license fees in both the public and private sectors.
Alongside Moore, Boris Johnson also wants to hand over the chairmanship of communications regulator Ofcom to former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre, as part of a wider attempt to shake up the media by placing right-wing figures in key positions.
Mark Damazer, former Radio 4 controller and BBC board member, accused No 10 of “undermining the recruiting process by giving such a firm turn. This increases the pressure on those responsible for interviewing candidates.
Current BBC chairman David Clementi is due to step down in February, but the formal recruitment process for the post has yet to begin. A source said there were still squabbles over the salary, with Downing Street pushing for it to be increased from the current level of £ 100,000 a year.
Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, said he would launch the BBC nomination process soon and praised the two former editors, saying “clearly there are forces both for Charles Moore and Paul Dacre ”. He added that he wanted a “strong and tall person who can hold the BBC to account”.
Insiders said there were particular concerns about the extent to which Moore supported the broadcaster and its long-standing model funded by license fees. “You have to be in the universe to believe in the BBC,” argued one.
Earlier this year Moore, 63, said the license fee was “the BBC’s biggest wrong” and an “infringement on freedom,” arguing that it should be drastically reduced – cutting the budget qu ‘she should devote to radio and television.
Theoretically, the principle of the license fee – a mandatory annual levy of £ 157.50 on every household that owns television – is guaranteed until the next BBC charter review in 2027. But there is a mid-year review. course planned for 2022, which will set its level and review the governance of the BBC.
The BBC chairman has no direct responsibility for individual programs, but has the power to dismiss his chief executive, Tim Davie, who only started work earlier this month. The President also heads the Board of Directors, responsible for maintaining accuracy and impartiality.
Ten years ago, Moore was fined £ 262 for refusing to pay the annual fee because the BBC failed to fire Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand after the presenters were accused of intimidating actor Andrew Sachs live.
The journalist and newspaper columnist, former Johnson boss, is known for a range of outspoken views, having argued in the past that Muslim immigration meant “more political unrest, more community tensions, more intolerance of people. other faiths and more terrorism ”.
Moore also said he viewed the threat of climate change as alarmism – contrary to the overwhelming scientific view – and wrote that it is designed to produce “unprecedented government control and the relative impoverishment of Western societies. “.
Nicky Campbell, the breakfast presenter on Radio 5 Live, singled out a passage from an “interesting column” in which Moore suggested that the possible consequence of equal marriage legislation would be that people could marry their dogs.
Moore also once claimed that Olivia Colman had a “left face” and was therefore an actor unsuited to play the Queen, in the Netflix adaptation of The Crown, although as chairman of the BBC he did not. would have no say in casting decisions.
As with the BBC, the Department of Digital Culture, Media and Sports is due to start a public nomination process for the £ 120,000 per year chairmanship of Ofcom, the communications regulator whose activities cover broadband, spectrum management for mobile phones and postal services. , as well as commercial television and complaints against the BBC.
Dacre, 71, has spent his entire career in newspapers, which are not regulated by Ofcom, culminating in writing The Daily Mail for 26 years. Sources in Downing Street said the reports of the two men lined up for the jobs were “broadly” correct, while adding that “neither is above the line yet”.
The Labor Party has said it does not want to engage in a political discussion about Moore or Dacre until “the proper process” is concluded. Jo Stevens, the shadow culture secretary, said the party would “give our point of view then” and accused No.10 of trying to distract the public from the coronavirus crisis.
“Why is he lagging behind in newspaper articles about potential people becoming leaders of public service organizations?” [when] do people worry about their work and their health? Asked the Labor MP.