Ofcom is the government-approved regulatory authority
Regulatory Authority
A regulatory agency is a public authority or government agency responsible for exercising autonomous authority over some area of human activity in a regulatory or supervisory capacity...

 for the broadcasting
Broadcasting is the distribution of audio and video content to a dispersed audience via any audio visual medium. Receiving parties may include the general public or a relatively large subset of thereof...

 and telecommunication
Telecommunication is the transmission of information over significant distances to communicate. In earlier times, telecommunications involved the use of visual signals, such as beacons, smoke signals, semaphore telegraphs, signal flags, and optical heliographs, or audio messages via coded...

s industries in the United Kingdom. Ofcom was initially established by the Office of Communications Act 2002. It received its full authority from the Communications Act 2003
Communications Act 2003
The Communications Act 2003 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It gave regulation body Ofcom its full powers. Among other measures, it introduced legal recognition of Community Radio and paved the way for full-time Community Radio services in the UK; as well as controversially...

. Ofcom's focus no longer includes some of the technical standards issues overseen by the previous regulatory agencies.


On 29 December 2003, Ofcom inherited the duties that had previously been the responsibility of five regulatory bodies:
  • the Broadcasting Standards Commission,
  • the Independent Television Commission
    Independent Television Commission
    The Independent Television Commission licensed and regulated commercial television services in the United Kingdom between 1 January 1991 and 28 December 2003....

  • the Office of Telecommunications (Oftel
    Oftel has been superseded as the British telecommunications regulator by Ofcom .----The Office of Telecommunications was a department in the United Kingdom government, under civil service control, charged with promoting competition and maintaining the interests of consumers in the UK...

  • the Radio Authority, and
  • the Radio communications Agency.

In addition, on 1 October 2011, Ofcom took over responsibility for regulating the postal services industry from the Postal Services Commission
Postal Services Commission
The Postal Services Commission, known as Postcomm, was a non-ministerial department of the Government of the United Kingdom charged with overseeing the quality and universal service of post in the United Kingdom. It was established in 2000 under the Postal Services Act 2000...


News International phone hacking scandal

In July 2011, in the wake of the News International phone hacking scandal, Ofcom came under pressure to launch an inquiry into whether the parent company of News International
News International
News International Ltd is the United Kingdom newspaper publishing division of News Corporation. Until June 2002, it was called News International plc....

, News Corporation
News Corporation
News Corporation or News Corp. is an American multinational media conglomerate. It is the world's second-largest media conglomerate as of 2011 in terms of revenue, and the world's third largest in entertainment as of 2009, although the BBC remains the world's largest broadcaster...

, was still the "fit and proper" owner of a controlling stake in the satellite broadcasting company British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB). On 13 July former Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown
James Gordon Brown is a British Labour Party politician who was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Labour Party from 2007 until 2010. He previously served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Labour Government from 1997 to 2007...

 urged Ofcom to launch an investigation. On 15 July the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg
Nick Clegg
Nicholas William Peter "Nick" Clegg is a British Liberal Democrat politician who is currently the Deputy Prime Minister, Lord President of the Council and Minister for Constitutional and Political Reform in the coalition government of which David Cameron is the Prime Minister...

 stated that the Government would launch a review of laws on what constituted a "fit and proper" owner for broadcasting companies in the United Kingdom, and that anyone found not to meet that standard can be forced to give up their current holdings in a company. On 22 July it was reported that Ofcom had begun an investigation into whether the phone-hacking scandal may have changed BSkyB's status as the "fit and proper" holder of a UK broadcasting licence. On the same day Ed Richards, the Chief Executive of Ofcom, replied to Simon Hughes
Simon Hughes
Simon Henry Ward Hughes is a British politician and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats. He is Member of Parliament for the constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark. Until 2008 he was President of the Liberal Democrats...

 MP, Don Foster MP and Tim Farron
Tim Farron
Timothy James Farron is a British Liberal Democrat politician. He is currently Member of Parliament for the constituency of Westmorland and Lonsdale...

 MP following a letter which they had written to him on 8 July concerning News Corporation's shareholding in BSkyB. In the letter Richards confirmed that Ofcom considers that News Corporation’s current shareholding of 39.14% in BSkyB does give it a material influence over the company; that Ofcom is not precluded from acting by ongoing police investigations; and that Ofcom’s process is not dependent upon a criminal conviction being secured.


Ofcom's responsibilities are wide-ranging, covering all types of industries and processes. It has a statutory duty to the interests of citizens and consumers by promoting competition, and protecting consumers from what might be considered harmful or offensive material. Some of the main areas Ofcom presides over are licensing, research
Research can be defined as the scientific search for knowledge, or as any systematic investigation, to establish novel facts, solve new or existing problems, prove new ideas, or develop new theories, usually using a scientific method...

, codes and policies, complaints, competition and protect the radio spectrum from abuse. Ofcom has a policy to undertake many consultation processes.


Ofcom consultations are a vital way of helping it to make the correct decisions based upon the evidence presented. Consultation processes begin with publishing documents on its website, asking for views and responses. If the document is perceived to be long and complicated, a plain English
Plain English
Plain English is a generic term for communication styles that emphasise clarity, brevity and the avoidance of technical language – particularly in relation to official government communication, including laws.The intention is to write in a manner that is easily understood by the target...

 summary is usually published as well. A period of ten weeks is allowed for interested persons, companies or organisations to send in their responses to documents.

After this consultation period, Ofcom publishes the responses on their website (excluding any personal or confidential information). When the consultation period has elapsed, Ofcom will prepare a summary of the responses received, and will use this information as a basis for their decisions.

Programme complaints

As the regulatory body for media broadcasts, part of Ofcom's duties are to examine specific complaints by viewers or listeners about programmes broadcast on channels that it has licensed. It does not oversee unlicensed channels broadcast to UK viewers. When Ofcom receives a complaint, it asks the broadcaster for a copy of the programme, it then examines the programme content to see if it is in breach of the broadcasting code. Ofcom requests response from the broadcaster to the complaint. On the basis of this response, Ofcom will mark the complaint as either "upheld" or "not upheld", or alternatively simply "resolved".


Ofcom is responsible for the management, regulation, assignment and licensing of the electromagnetic spectrum
Electromagnetic spectrum
The electromagnetic spectrum is the range of all possible frequencies of electromagnetic radiation. The "electromagnetic spectrum" of an object is the characteristic distribution of electromagnetic radiation emitted or absorbed by that particular object....

 in the UK, and licenses portions of it for use in TV and radio
Radio is the transmission of signals through free space by modulation of electromagnetic waves with frequencies below those of visible light. Electromagnetic radiation travels by means of oscillating electromagnetic fields that pass through the air and the vacuum of space...

 broadcasts, mobile phone
Mobile phone
A mobile phone is a device which can make and receive telephone calls over a radio link whilst moving around a wide geographic area. It does so by connecting to a cellular network provided by a mobile network operator...

 transmissions, private communications networks, and so on. The process of licensing varies depending on the type of usage required. Some licences simply have to be applied and paid for, other commercial licences are subject to a bidding process. Most of the procedures in place have been inherited from the systems used by the previous regulators. However, Ofcom may change some of these processes in future.


Ofcom protects the radio spectrum in a number of ways:

Working within International organisations (ITU, CEPT and BEREC).

Licencing UK controlled commercial radio spectrum; The Ministry of Defence
Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom)
The Ministry of Defence is the United Kingdom government department responsible for implementation of government defence policy and is the headquarters of the British Armed Forces....

 controls its own spectrum. Within the international frame work for frequency use; Ofcom liaises through the UK Government to produce the UKFAT (UK Frequency Allocation Table). The current table was produced in 2010.

Investigate and, when necessary, carryout enforcement activities to clear interference or illegal use from the spectrum. Until June 2010 Ofcom investigated all interference cases within the UK. However Radio and Television Broadcast interference reporting has reverted to the BBC. So consumers in the UK should report cases of interference to the BBC. However commercial and spectrum licence holders report to Ofcom and in all cases Illegal/Pirate Radio operations are also reported to Ofcom.

Postal services

In October 2010 the UK Government announced plans for Ofcom to inherit the functions of Postcomm as part of a wider set of public service austerity measures. Following the Postal Services Act 2011 regulatory responsibility for postal services transferred to Ofcom on 1 October 2011, with its primary duty to maintain the UK 6-day a week universal postal service.


Colette Bowe was appointed Ofcom Chairman with effect from 11 March 2009. She is the founding chairman of the Telecoms Ombudsman Council, and chaired Ofcom’s Consumer Panel from its inception in 2003 to December 2007. The current Chief Executive is Ed Richards, who previously was Chief Operating Officer, and is responsible for Strategy, Market Research, Finance, Human Resources and other functions. Richards was Senior Policy Advisor to the Labour party
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

 Prime Minister Tony Blair
Tony Blair
Anthony Charles Lynton Blair is a former British Labour Party politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2 May 1997 to 27 June 2007. He was the Member of Parliament for Sedgefield from 1983 to 2007 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007...

 for Media, telecoms, the internet and e-govt and Controller of Corporate Strategy at the BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...


The first chairman of Ofcom was David Currie, Dean of Cass Business School at City University
City University, London
City University London , is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom. It was founded in 1894 as the Northampton Institute and became a university in 1966, when it adopted its present name....

 and a life peer
Life peer
In the United Kingdom, life peers are appointed members of the Peerage whose titles cannot be inherited. Nowadays life peerages, always of baronial rank, are created under the Life Peerages Act 1958 and entitle the holders to seats in the House of Lords, presuming they meet qualifications such as...

 under the title Lord Currie of Marylebone. The first chief executive was Stephen Carter, Baron Carter of Barnes, formerly a senior executive of JWT
JWT is one of the largest advertising agencies in the United States and the fourth-largest in the world. It is one of the key companies of Sir Martin Sorrell's WPP Group and is headquartered in New York. The global agency is led by Worldwide Chairman and Global CEO Bob Jeffrey who took over the...

 UK and NTL and now Minister for Communications, Technology and Broadcasting.

In June 2009, Conservative party
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

 leader, David Cameron
David Cameron
David William Donald Cameron is the current Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, First Lord of the Treasury, Minister for the Civil Service and Leader of the Conservative Party. Cameron represents Witney as its Member of Parliament ....

 said that if his party were elected, they would restructure Ofcom.

Key personnel

Ofcom's key personnel at September 2010 were:
  • Chief Executive, Ed Richards
  • Content, International and Regulatory Development, Christopher Woolard
  • Legal Group, Polly Weitzman (General Counsel)
  • Consumer Group, Claudio Pollack
  • Strategy, Chief Economist and Technology Group, Steve Unger
  • Competition Policy Group, Stuart McIntosh
  • Spectrum Policy Group, ‘H’ Nwana
  • Operational Group, Jill Ainscough (Chief Operating Officer)

Sitefinder database and freedom of information

"Sitefinder" is an Internet database maintained by Ofcom. This was recommended in the "Stewart Report" to the Government in 2000. It is a recommended voluntary scheme which national mobile network operators provide information about the location and operating characteristics of individual mobile phone base stations (or masts).

In September 2007 an Information Tribunal ruled that the public should have access to the database under the Freedom of Information Act 2000
Freedom of Information Act 2000
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 is an Act of Parliament of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that creates a public "right of access" to information held by public authorities. It is the implementation of freedom of information legislation in the United Kingdom on a national level...

. However, as Ofcom has no legal power to enforce mobile phone operators to add information the database, UK mobile phone operators consequently ceased updating it.
Ofcom appealed against the Freedom of Information Act ruling, together with one UK mobile operator - T-Mobile. This has led to accusations of the organisation's complicity with the mobile telecommunications industry in keeping information about mast locations secret. Ofcom's stated reasons for the appeal have ranged from "preventing terrorist attacks" on the sites of phone masts to "protecting the intellectual property" of the mobile telecommunications industry.

In April 2008, the High Court found in favour of the Information Commissioner's Office and overruled Ofcom's objections. It is unclear whether Ofcom intends to appeal against this ruling.


Ofcom was criticised for incurring unnecessary expenses to the public purse with the use of "extravagant Thames-side offices" and a "top-heavy salary bill". Also for a "Nero approach" and for "poor service".

In May 2011, Ofcom ruled that Press TV
Press TV
Press TV is a 24-hour English language global news network owned by the Iranian government. Its headquarters are located in Tehran, Iran, with bureaux in Beirut , Damascus , London , Seoul and Washington DC ....

, Iran's English satellite channel, was responsible for a serious breach of UK broadcasting rules and could face a fine for airing an interview with Maziar Bahari
Maziar Bahari
Maziar Bahari Maziar Bahari Maziar Bahari (مازیار بهاری, (born 1967) is an Iranian Canadian journalist, film maker and human rights activist. He was a reporter for Newsweek from 1998 to 2011...

, the Newsweek
Newsweek is an American weekly news magazine published in New York City. It is distributed throughout the United States and internationally. It is the second-largest news weekly magazine in the U.S., having trailed Time in circulation and advertising revenue for most of its existence...

 journalist arrested covering the Iranian presidential election in 2009
Iranian presidential election, 2009
Iran's tenth presidential election was held on 12 June 2009, with incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad running against three challengers. The next morning the Islamic Republic News Agency, Iran's official news agency, announced that with two-thirds of the votes counted, Ahmadinejad had won the election...

, that was obtained by force while he was held in a Tehran jail.

Upon the release of Ofcom's findings, Press TV
Press TV
Press TV is a 24-hour English language global news network owned by the Iranian government. Its headquarters are located in Tehran, Iran, with bureaux in Beirut , Damascus , London , Seoul and Washington DC ....

 launched a campaign against Maziar Bahari
Maziar Bahari
Maziar Bahari Maziar Bahari Maziar Bahari (مازیار بهاری, (born 1967) is an Iranian Canadian journalist, film maker and human rights activist. He was a reporter for Newsweek from 1998 to 2011...

 and Ofcom. Maziar Bahari
Maziar Bahari
Maziar Bahari Maziar Bahari Maziar Bahari (مازیار بهاری, (born 1967) is an Iranian Canadian journalist, film maker and human rights activist. He was a reporter for Newsweek from 1998 to 2011...

 was accused of being a "an MI6 contact person" taking guidance from "The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, protocol #7". Press TV
Press TV
Press TV is a 24-hour English language global news network owned by the Iranian government. Its headquarters are located in Tehran, Iran, with bureaux in Beirut , Damascus , London , Seoul and Washington DC ....

 called Ofcom's ruling "part of an anti-Iranian campaign," and that "A quick look at senior decision makers at OFCOM
Ofcom is the government-approved regulatory authority for the broadcasting and telecommunications industries in the United Kingdom. Ofcom was initially established by the Office of Communications Act 2002. It received its full authority from the Communications Act 2003...

 demonstrates that the regulator is mostly made up of former Channel4 and BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 executives, some of whom are well-linked to and influenced by powerful pro-Israeli
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...


See also

  • Advertising Standards Authority
    Advertising Standards Authority (United Kingdom)
    The Advertising Standards Authority is the self-regulatory organisation of the advertising industry in the United Kingdom. The ASA is a non-statutory organisation and so cannot interpret or enforce legislation. However, its code of advertising practice broadly reflects legislation in many instances...

  • Broadband stakeholder group
    Broadband stakeholder group
    The Broadband Stakeholder Group is the UK government's advisory body on broadband. Created in 2001 by then Minister for E-Commerce and Competitiveness Stephen Timms, it provides a neutral forum for organisations across the converging broadband value-chain to discuss and resolve key policy,...

  • Office of Fair Trading
    Office of Fair Trading
    The Office of Fair Trading is a not-for-profit and non-ministerial government department of the United Kingdom, established by the Fair Trading Act 1973, which enforces both consumer protection and competition law, acting as the UK's economic regulator...

  • Press Complaints Commission
    Press Complaints Commission
    The Press Complaints Commission is a voluntary regulatory body for British printed newspapers and magazines, consisting of representatives of the major publishers. The PCC is funded by the annual levy it charges newspapers and magazines...

  • ISPA
    Internet Service Providers Association
    The Internet Service Providers Association, or ISPA, is a British body representing providers of Internet Services.-History:ISPA was established in 1995 as the first trade association for ISPs, promoting competition, self-regulation and progress within the Internet industry...

  • International Telecommunications Union
  • List of telecommunications regulatory bodies

External links

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