Ofcom to Regulate Britain's BBC, But Not Content

24 March 2003

Contrary to general expectation, the publicly funded BBC will be regulated by the new UK communications regulator Ofcom when it opens its doors later this year, a senior government policy adviser has revealed.

Ed Richards, the man with the prime minister’s ear on all matters media, told last week’s conference of ISBA (the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers) that Ofcom will take more of a role in regulating the Corporation than originally proposed.

The BBC is keen to dodge Ofcom’s authority and maintain the status quo (in which it is overseen by its own board of governors).

However, Richards revealed the Corporation will be included in Ofcom’s remit, within its self-regulatory category of media firms – though this means it will not be scrutinised as closely as rivals in the commercial sector.

“We disagree that the BBC should be fully included in Ofcom because of its core of difference, which is that it is in receipt of public money,” Richards declared. “In these circumstances, backstop powers must lie with the Secretary of State rather than an independent unelected regulator.”

He added that calls from some commercial broadcasters for Ofcom to oversee BBC output will not be heeded: “The role of Ofcom is clearly specified and does not include content.”

Data sourced from: Media Week (UK); additional content by WARC staff