A senior mp who will vet the nominee to be the bbcs next chair has compared picking the front runner charles moore to hiring a convicted fraudster to run a bank.
The pointed remarks from julian knight, the conservative chair of parliaments digital, culture, media and sport select committee, referred to reports that prime minister boris johnson wanted to appoint lord moore, a former daily telegraph editor who was once fined for refusing to pay the licence fee.
To have a chairman, whoever that may be, convicted of non-payment of a licence fee seems to be completely beyond the pale, said mr knight, during a hearing of the committee on tuesday. its almost like [someone] convicted of fraud being in a bank.
Mr knights comments are some of the strongest yet from within the conservative party over an appointment with potentially far-reaching implications for the future of the uks national broadcaster. an advert for the next bbc chair, a government appointment, is expected to be published imminently.
As well as tapping his former editor lord moore, allies of mr johnson say he also wants to appoint paul dacre, a former editor of the daily mail and fellow critic of the bbc, to chair ofcom, the uks media regulator.
Mr knight, whose committee will hold a hearing with the nominee for chairman before their position is formally approved, avoided referring to lord moore by name. but he said the select committee had decided to write to oliver dowden, the culture secretary, to express concern over leaks undermining the recruitment process.
The criticisms about the process were echoed by david clementi, the bbcs serving chair, who said the corporations charter was absolutely clear about the need for a fair and open competition.
Due process is important, sir david told the committee. in line with this, i hope the government will encourage well-qualified candidates to apply so that there is a strong and diverse field, rather than putting them off by giving the impression that there is already a preferred candidate.
Stressing the need for an independent chair, sir david referred to the push by bbcs new director-general tim davie to bolster the bbcs impartiality by cracking down on staff who want to be an opinionated columnist or a partisan campaigner.
The point i want to make is that impartiality starts at the top of the organisation, it doesnt start halfway down, he said, without referring by name to lord moore, who has written opinion columns encouraging non-payment of the licence fee. it starts with the chair and the board.
If the candidate comes from that sort of background, he or she will have to demonstrate [to the committee] that they have left their strong political views at the door.
Asked whether it was appropriate to appoint a chair who had been convicted of non-payment of the licence fee, mr davie said: i dont run the appointment process for my boss. and i think thats appropriate. i put my trust in the process.
Mr moore could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.