The Tory peer chosen to lead the communications watchdog has a ‘clear lack of in-depth knowledge’ of social media and online safety, according to a report by MPs which outlines the process for hiring the new Ofcom chairman like a “mess”.
Michael Grade is in line to oversee UK internet regulation after the government named the 79-year-old as the preferred choice to lead the regulator. However, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee expressed concern over Grade’s admission this week that he does not use social media but is aware of how they work thanks to their children.
“His obvious lack of depth when talking about social media and online safety worries us,” the commission said in a report released on Friday.
Ofcom will play a key role in regulating major social media platforms and search engines in the UK, as the body responsible for implementing the landmark Online Safety Bill, which is set to become law by the end of the year.
The report added that it would be difficult to find a candidate with deep experience in all of Ofcom’s remit and expressed the hope that Grade, who has had a long career as a broadcasting executive, would receive advice on the technical aspects of his £142,500 a year. -one year role.
“He seems to understand the importance of Ofcom’s new role in regulating the online space. It would be difficult to find a candidate with deep experience in all of Ofcom’s remit, and we hope that he will be well supported with the guidance needed to fulfill his role as Chairman.
Despite concerns over perceived gaps in Grade’s knowledge, the committee’s Conservative chairman, MP Julian Knight, said the candidate impressed at a pre-confirmation hearing on Thursday. “Lord Grade impressed during the hearing and clearly has the character and gravity for the role,” he said.
Knight added that Grade would bring extensive broadcasting experience to the three-day-a-week job, having held senior positions at the BBC, ITV and Channel 4.
The committee, which has no power to block Grade’s nomination, has been scathing about a hiring process that took two years and involved failed attempts to install the former editor of the Daily Mail, Paul Dacre, as chairman.
Knight said, “This shambles of a process has us very concerned about the department’s ability to conduct effective and impartial public nominating competitions.”
Grade said that if confirmed, he would step down as Conservative Whip and become an unlisted peer. In a written response to the committee, Grade also appeared to warn that the online safety bill would not eradicate online harm overnight.
“There will be huge expectations that Ofcom will reduce or even eliminate online harm overnight as a result of the Online Safety Bill. Until the Bill becomes law, it is difficult to assess this risk or the expectations of Ofcom’s ability to “police” major online platforms.