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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 March, 2003, 18:45 GMT
Ofcom gets launch date
Ofcom graphic
Ofcom will act as a one-stop shop for media regulation
Ofcom, the new media "super-regulator", will be up and running by the end of the year, the UK Government has announced.

The watchdog, designed to take umbrella control of the duties currently undertaken by five bodies, including Oftel and the Independent Television Commission (ITC), will launch on 15 December.

It was set up through the Office of Communications Act 2002 and given royal assent in March last year.

But the government has since been reluctant to set a precise timetable for implementation.

The Communications Bill, which is currently going through parliament, will spell out Ofcom's responsibilities, and such deliberations can often prove more lengthy than first imagined.

Patricia Hewitt, the secretary of state for trade and industry, said: "This clear target date will provide a focus for all organisations involved to move seamlessly into the new converged regime."

Ofcom will be led by chief executive Stephen Carter, former managing director of cable company NTL.

Stephen Carter
Mr Carter dealt with all the major broadcasters while at NTL

Mr Carter has been working on Ofcom's strategy since his appointment in January.

Once Ofcom is operating, Mr Carter will be responsible for its day-to-day operations.

It will oversee the converging worlds of television, radio, telecommunications, mobile phones and even the frequencies on which electronic garage doors operate.

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

As well as the ITC and Oftel, they include the Radio Authority (RA), the Broadcasting Standards Commission (BSC) and the Radiocommunications Agency.

Ofcom will be involved in issues of taste and decency, competition and takeovers, and public service broadcasting.

But it has received some criticism already because it is seen as too big and unwieldy to cover both broadcasting and telecommunications.

It already faces the challenge of whether it will devote more of its energies to broadcasting issues or the internet.

One of its new powers will be to fine the BBC if it breaks rules on taste and decency, which met with opposition from the corporation.

However, Ms Hewitt and Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell pledged to block any attempt to end newspaper self-regulation by bringing press complaints under Ofcom's control.

But, the government does want Ofcom to have the power to advise ministers on newspaper mergers, a role currently played by the Department of Trade and Industry.




SEE ALSO:
The challenge of media regulation
21 Jan 03  |  Entertainment
Challenges ahead for media watchdog
09 Dec 02  |  Technology
Davies: Ofcom to have key BBC role
25 Nov 02  |  Entertainment
BBC faces watchdog fines
29 Oct 02  |  Entertainment
Peer named media watchdog chief
25 Jul 02  |  Entertainment
Ofcom names chief executive
21 Jan 03  |  Entertainment


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