Ofcom Boss Spices Debut Speech by Puttnam Pummelling

02 July 2003

Stephen Carter, the ceo of Britain’s new media supra-regulator Ofcom, used the occasion of his debut public speech to criticize the campaign to by rebel Labour Lord David Puttnam to amend the upcoming Communications Bill on issue of ownership of UK media by US corporations.

Speaking Tuesday at the annual lunch of ISBA (the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers), Carter let loose a volley at Puttnam for under-estimating the “passionate interest” of Ofcom’s executive board.

Conceding that Puttnam had raised a legitimate question as to how Ofcom will balance “the general duties that are outlined in the legislation”, Carter accused him of failing to understand the thrust of the government's enactment.

“Some people are suggesting that Ofcom may disregard its public interest responsibilities. This characterisation fails to understand the whole thrust of the drafting of the legislation, namely that parity attaches to the twin duties of protecting the citizen and the consumer,” Carter argued.

“It also fails to understand the governance of Ofcom, namely that we are a board with a chairman, a chief executive ... who will exercise their responsibilities collectively. It also fails to understand the passionate interest of the people who have been appointed in key positions.”

This public censure of a respected media and political figure by Carter, the former chief operating officer of Chapter 11 bankruptcy survivor NTL, recalls the famed political gibe by erstwhile Labour chancellor Dennis Healey who dismissed his criticism in the House of Commons (by Sir Geoffrey Howe) as “like being savaged by a dead sheep”.

Puttnam, however, appears to be on the verge of vindication. Unconfirmed reports this Wednesday morning suggest the government is about to bow to his demanded safeguards by including the amendments into its Communications Bill.

Data sourced from: BrandRepublic (UK) and BBC Radio News; additional content by WARC staff