Ofcom

From Academic Kids

The Office of Communications, usually known as Ofcom, is the UK's communications regulator.

Contents

Introduction

Ofcom was designed to be a 'super regulator', required in an age where many media platforms are converging. Ofcom was initially established in the Office of Communications Act 2002, but received its full authority from the Communications Act 2003. On December 29, 2003, Ofcom inherited the duties that had previously been the responsibility of five regulatory bodies:

The inaugural chairman of Ofcom is David Currie, Dean of Cass Business School at City University and a life peer under the title Lord Currie of Marylebone. Its chief executive Stephen Carter was formerly a senior executive of J Walter Thompson UK and NTL.

The short form of the name is given as OFCOM (all capitals) in the Communications Act 2003, which established the Office of Communications. Ofcom itself uses the mixed case form seen here, which is also the more widespread in the media.

Ofcom's main office is at Riverside House, 2a, Southwark Bridge Road, Southwark, London SE1 9HA.

Duties

Ofcom's duties are wide-ranging, covering all manner of industries and processes. It has a statutory duty to further the interests of citizens and consumers by promoting competiton and protecting consumers from harm or offensive material.

Some of the main things which Ofcom preside over are licensing, undertaking research, creating codes and policies, dealing with complaints and looking into competition. Ofcom has also become well known for its tendency to issue lots and lots of consultations (there was even a consultation on the consultations). However, this is the way Ofcom intends to run its business, being more open, accountable, and receptive to public and industry comments.

Consultations

Ofcom considers consultations to be a vital way of helping it to make the right decisions based upon the right evidence. Ofcom's formal process of consultation starts with their publishing a document (all of which are published on their website), asking for views and responses. If the document is long and complicated, Ofcom will usually publish a plain English summary.

Ofcom will then usually allow a period of ten weeks for interested persons, companies or organisations to read the document and send in their responses. After this ten week period, Ofcom will normally publish all of the responses on their website (excluding any which are marked by the respondent as confidential).

After the consultation has closed, Ofcom will prepare a summary of the responses, and may use this as a basis for some of their decisions. [1] (http://www.ofcom.org.uk/consultations/)

Programme Complaints

As the regulatory body for media broadcasts, part of Ofcom's duties are to examine specific complaints by viewers/listeners about programmes. When Ofcom receives a complaint, it firstly asks the broadcaster for a copy of the programme, and it then examines the programme to see whether it is in breach of the broadcasting code. Ofcom also asks for a response from the broadcaster to the complaint. Considering these, Ofcom will mark the complaint as either upheld or not upheld, or alternatively 'resolved'.

In June 2004, Ofcom, having received complaints from twenty-four viewers, censured Fox commentator John Gibson for stating that the BBC had “a frothing-at-the-mouth anti-Americanism that was obsessive, irrational and dishonest”, that the BBC “felt entitled to lie and, when caught lying, felt entitled to defend its lying reporters and executives”, that BBC reporter, Andrew Gilligan, had “insisted on air that the Iraqi army was heroically repulsing an incompetent American military”, and that “the BBC, far from blaming itself, insisted its reporter had a right to lie— exaggerate— because, well, the BBC knew that the war was wrong, and anything they could say to underscore that point had to be right”[2] (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,109821,00.html). Ofcom held that these statements were untrue opinions based on false evidence that necessitated that Fox offer the BBC rebuttal time.[3] (http://www.ofcom.org.uk/tv/obb/prog_cb/pcb_11/upheld_cases?a=87101)

Licensing

Ofcom is in charge of a large chunk of the electromagnetic spectrum, and licenses portions of it for use in TV and radio broadcasts, mobile phone transmissions, private communications networks, and so on. The process of licensing varies depending on the type of usage required. Some licenses simply have to be applied for and paid for, others are subject to a bidding process. Most of the procedures in place have been inherited from the systems used by the legacy regulators. However, Ofcom may change some of the processes in future.

Related articles

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