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EDITIONS
Thursday, 25 July, 2002, 15:12 GMT 16:12 UK
Peer named media watchdog chief
Media regulation remains a controversial issue
Media regulation remains a controversial issue
Lord Currie of Marylebone is to become the first head of the powerful new communications and media regulator Ofcom.

The Labour peer is an economist and Dean of London City University's John Cass Business School. He is also said to be an ally of Chancellor Gordon Brown.

Lord Currie was chosen on the recommendation of Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell and Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt.

Lord Currie
Lord Currie advised two Tory chancellors

Ofcom will act as a one-stop-shop regulator, pulling together under one umbrella the current cluster of media of watchdogs in the UK.

These include the Independent Television Commission (ITC), the Radio Authority (RA), the Broadcasting Standards Commission (BSC), Oftel and the Radiocommunications Agency.

Tessa Jowell said: "David Currie is an outstanding choice for this position.

"I am confident that his leadership and strategic view of regulation will enable Ofcom to help achieve the government's vision of making the UK home to the most dynamic and competitive communications and media market in the world."

Lord Currie said he was "honoured and delighted to take on this crucial and challenging post".

The creation of Ofcom - which stands for the Office of Communications - was proposed by the government in July 2001.

It is considered necessary to oversee and control the rapidly expanding telecommunications business.

Politics

As head of Ofcom, which should begin operating formally in 2003, he is expected to draw a 133,000 a year salary.

He has cancelled his membership of the Labour Party and resigned the Labour whip in the House of Lords.

Tessa Jowell
Ms Jowell is said to have recommended Lord Currie

He would, however, continue in his position as dean at the business school.

Although now a Labour supporter, Lord Currie was originally a member of the Conservative Party.

Under the Tory government of John Major, Lord Currie worked in the Treasury as an advisor to Chancellors Norman Lamont and Kenneth Clarke.

But Conservative culture spokesman John Whittingdale said that the peer's long-held connection with the Labour would make it hard for Lord Currie to appear to act impartially.

"I'm sure Lord Curry will be objective," he told BBC Radio 4's World at One programme.

"My fear is that actually he is going to have to work even harder to demonstrate that because there will be a lot of people who will see this as just another example of Labour cronyism."

Audience

The establishment of Ofcom will effectively make the ITC, Oftel, the BSC, RA and the Radiocommunications Agency redundant.

It will oversee the public service broadcasting obligations of the BBC and ITV.

BBC Chairman Gavyn Davies
BBC Chairman Gavyn Davies will still regulate the corporation
Ofcom will also be responsible for monitoring the performance of communications companies such as BT.

Audience complaints on issues of taste, decency, fairness and privacy will also be ruled on by Ofcom.

But there has been criticism over the government's decision not to include the content of the BBC's output under Ofcom jurisdiction.

Instead, regulation of the corporation will remain the job of the board of governors.

Remit

The precise role of Ofcom has only been sketched out in what is known as a paving bill.

This was necessary in order to get the watchdog off the ground, with a chairman, budget and staff but without the power to take decisions.

Its full and concrete remit is expected to be drawn up when the draft Communications Bill returns to the Commons.

The bill, which will also rule on cross-media ownership, has been delayed to allow further discussions with the media and telecommunications industries.



Setting up Ofcom

Background
See also:

20 Jun 01 | Entertainment
20 Jun 01 | Entertainment
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07 May 02 | Entertainment
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