The Ofcom Board has announced the appointment of Dame Melanie Dawes as Chief Executive. She replaces Sharon White who left to join retailer John Lewis.
Dawes has been Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government since 2015. She will take up her new position in early March.
Dawes has held senior roles across the Civil Service, working in partnership across the public and private sectors. She started her career as an economist and spent 15 years at the Treasury, including as Europe Director. She was Director General of the Economic and Domestic Affairs Secretariat at the Cabinet Office between 2011 and 2015, and prior to that she served on the Board of HMRC as Head of Business Tax.
In addition to her current Permanent Secretary role, Dawes chairs the Civil Service People Board, leading workforce strategies across all government departments. She is also Civil Service champion for diversity and inclusion.
She has held non-executive roles including with the consumer body Which? and is a trustee of the Patchwork Foundation, which promotes the participation of under-represented young people in democracy.
Lord Burns, Ofcom’s Chairman, said: “I am delighted that the Secretary of State has approved Ofcom’s appointment of Dame Melanie Dawes as the next Chief Executive of Ofcom. The Government’s statement that it is minded to appoint Ofcom as the regulator for online harms is a vote of confidence in Ofcom’s expertise. I know Melanie will do a fantastic job of leading the organisation and maintaining its strengths.
“I look forward to working with her over the months ahead as we prepare for this forthcoming legislation as well as the ongoing tasks of achieving better broadband and mobile coverage and supporting UK broadcasting.”
Dawes said: “Ofcom plays a crucial role in ensuring that people and businesses across the UK get the best from their communications services. It’s a great privilege to be appointed as Chief Executive at a time of significant change in the sectors Ofcom regulates.”
The programme to establish online harms as part of Ofcom’s remit is likely to take time to put in place. Given the extension of Ofcom’s role, the Secretary of State has also today said that the Government will consider carefully the full impacts of this potential change, both for Ofcom and to inform broader work on the regulatory landscape.
In view of the fact that the new role would mean change for Ofcom over the next few years, the Secretary of State has indicated that the Government would like a Chair to be in place who is able to oversee the successful implementation of any changes in full.
Lord Burns has therefore agreed to step down to enable a new Chair to be in place by the end of this year. He has agreed to stay on until the new Chair is in place to ensure a smooth transition.
DCMS Secretary of State Nicky Morgan said: “I congratulate Dame Melanie Dawes on her appointment as chief executive of Ofcom. Melanie’s experience leading organisations through change will be vital as the Government today announces it is minded to appoint the organisation as regulator for new online harms laws.
“I would also like to thank Lord Burns for his work as Chair of the organisation. He has provided expert stewardship and will leave the media and telecoms regulator in a strong position.”
The Chief Executive of Ofcom is a public appointment made by the Ofcom Board, involving an independent panel member. It is subject to approval by the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Baroness (Nicky) Morgan.
Jonathan Oxley, Ofcom’s Competition Group Director and Board member, is currently serving as interim Chief Executive until Dawes arrives.