Ofcom Muscles In on BBC Charter Review

25 January 2005

Eyebrows hit hairlines at Friday's Oxford Media Convention when Ed Richards - a senior partner (and Blair administration political placeman) at at media regulator Ofcom - revealed that the watchdog intended to intrude in the current Royal Charter review of governance and regulation at the BBC.

Currently the BBC is answerable to its own board of governors - government appointees who proved inconveniently independent over such matters as the infamous Iraq intelligence dossier.

Downing Street, it seems, is not eager to perpetuate in an independent broadcaster such failure to bend the knee to government wishes, and has called into question the BBC's future governance.

Aping his political masters, Richards was blandness personified when he revealed Ofcom's intention to intervene: "Many people have observed to us that our review [of public service broadcasting] would be incomplete without a coherent view of regulation, accountability and governance for the digital age," he told the Convention.

"Accordingly the Ofcom board has decided to include a chapter on the future regulation of the BBC". This intervention, Richards insisted, was not a "land grab". He did not, however, share with his audience the identity or numbers of the "many people" who thought along such suprisingly similar lines to the Blair administration.

News of Ofcom's interlopement came as a surprise to senior BBC executives, not least its recently appointed, government approved, chairman Michael Grade.

Data sourced from MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff