Government frontrunner abandons bid for UK media watchdog

LONDON (AP) – The man who was once Britain’s most powerful newspaper editor has dropped his bid for the country’s broadcasting regulator in a blow to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre was the government’s preferred candidate for Ofcom president, so much so that when Dacre was rejected by the selection committee, the government announced he would relaunch the recruitment process.

In a letter published in the Times of London newspaper on Saturday, Dacre, 73, said he was no longer interested in the post, “although he has been asked to (reapply) by many senior officials in the government”.

Dacre said he believed his conservative views meant he would not be selected.

Speaking about roles in the public sector, he said that “if you are endowed with an independent mind and are not associated with the liberals / lefts you are more likely to win the lottery than to get the job”.

Dacre resigned in 2018 after 26 years as editor of the center-right Daily Mail. During his tenure, the newspaper was courted by politicians who feared its power to make or break careers.

The Mail’s online operation – which features less politics and more celebrity snapshots – is one of the world’s most popular news sites.

Ofcom regulates television and radio broadcasters and telecommunications companies, and gains new powers to tackle the controversial issue of regulating online media.

The process of selecting a new leader has become another headache for Johnson, whose government has faced a slew of allegations of ethical breaches.

Opposition parties have accused Johnson’s Tory government of trying to rig Ofcom’s selection process in favor of their preferred candidate. The governments of Scotland and Wales, which are not led by Tories, on Saturday expressed concerns over “the perceived lack of impartiality and transparency in current Ofcom appointment processes”.

The government has said the process is fair and open.

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