A senior PR executive at a firm which lobbies for Facebook is to help choose the next chairman of Ofcom.

Michael Prescott is currently the sole independent member on an assessment board that will scrutinise candidates following ministers’ decision to re-run the process after the previous panel refused to back their favoured candidate, the former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre.

Mr Prescott is currently the managing director for corporate and political strategy at Hanover, a communication and lobbying group that has represented Facebook and Apple.

The appointment panel will be chaired by Sue Gray, the second permanent secretary of the Department for Levelling Up. The department’s secretary, Michael Gove, is believed to have been critical of Mr Dacre in the past.

A third member has yet to be confirmed.

Dacre, who edited the Daily Mail for 26 years, is a longstanding BBC critic

Credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Mr Prescott’s appointment will be viewed as ironic in the media industry after Government sources suggested that Big Tech had somehow influenced the first panel when it decided that Mr Dacre – an arch critic of the BBC and the US tech giants – was unappointable.

Mr Prescott is a former Sunday Times political editor. He was corporate affairs director for BT and a managing director at the PR firm Weber Shandwick before joining Hanover.

Lord Parkinson told the House of Lords last week that headhunters Saxton Bampfylde had been appointed to find candidates, while confirming previous applicants could reapply.

The move gives Mr Dacre, 72, another chance to take up the position despite opposition from the culture committee chairman Julian Knight, who has called for ministers to rule out candidates previously deemed unsuitable to the role.

Mr Knight said: "The fact that we have a previously failed candidate seemingly being lined up certainly would make many independent-minded people think, ‘why would I want to tie my name to this process?’

"It is an interesting development with Michael on the team. I won’t comment on whether he is independent or not.

"But I would say that anyone involved in that particular industry, where tech has huge influence, they bring a degree of expertise which is welcome, but also perhaps they bring a shadow of the overt involvement of tech giants."

Sources close to the culture committee have said they may consider a more wide-ranging examination of both the candidate and the process once the appointment is made.

A DCMS spokesman said: "The recruitment process for the Ofcom Chair is fair and open and there are no conflicts of interest.

Ofcom BBC Report | Journalists urged to 'challenge' extreme views

"Mr Prescott’s role on the panel has been approved by the independent Commissioner for Public Appointments."

Mr Dacre was first linked with the £142,500-a-year position last summer and is said to be the Prime Minister’s preferred choice to run the watchdog as part of an effort to install conservative figures in culturally influential positions.

Other interviewees included the former culture minister Lord Vaizey; Maggie Carver, Ofcom’s deputy chairman; and Sir Tom Winsor, head of the police watchdog.

Ofcom regulates telecoms, broadcasting and the postal service but is having its remit extended to cover the internet.

Mr Vaizey hinted that he could reapply for the job last week when he jokingly asked for the new headhunter’s telephone number when discussing the process in the Lords.

The final decision on the next chairman will be made by the culture secretary Nadine Dorries in consultation with Downing Street. Applications close on November 29.

Mr Prescott has been contacted for comment. 

Former Google exec to lead UK’s Big Tech regulation

A former Google executive has been put in charge of a group of Britain’s regulators, set up to oversee tech companies including the Silicon Valley giant.

Ofcom announced that Gill Whitehead would lead the Digital Regulation Cooperation Forum (DRCF), which was set up last year to liaise between the UK’s key watchdogs.

The DRCF, made up of Ofcom, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), the Information Commissioner’s Office and the Financial Conduct Authority, is meant to ensure online services work well for consumers and businesses in the UK.

Her appointment comes as the CMA conducts multiple investigations into Google, and as Ofcom gets ready to enforce incoming online harms legislation.

Ms Whitehead was chosen by a panel that included representatives from all four regulators.