Prime Minister Tony Blair faces a possible rerun of the recent ‘Tony’s Cronies’ media-fest over his alleged intervention in the appointment of chief executive to the new media super-regulator Ofcom.
Under the provisions of the draft Communications Bill, Ofcom is set to replace all five of the present pack of watchdogs – the Broadcasting Standards Commission, the Independent Television Commission, Oftel, the Radio Authority, and the Radio Communications Agency. Their melding mirrors the fast-escalating convergence between broadcast and online media.
It is expected that the newcomer will be staffed almost entirely by employees of the defunct entities – with one significant exception, its chief executive. Word from the Downing Street leak machine is that Blair is eager for a “fresh pair of hands” to grasp Ofcom’s tiller.
If true, this rules out all those heading the present bodies, leaving a clear run for Baroness Margaret Jay, until June 2001 the government’s Minister for Women and Leader of the House of Lords. Almost from birth, Jay has been a life member of the UK political establishment, courtesy of dad, the former Labour prime minister James Callaghan.
However, frontrunner though Jay may be, some in the corridors of power believe that even Tony Blair would not risk the barrage of bile that would erupt on her appointment to such an influential position.
In addition to controlling broadcasting and online standards, Ofcom will also be responsible for reviewing the rules governing media ownership every three years – effectively allowing it to amend the related laws without parliamentary approval.
Data sourced from: MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff