LONDON: With six shortlisted runners now entering the final straight, the race to head British media and telecoms regulator Ofcom could still be a close run thing - despite the smart money sitting on the nose of current chief operating officer Ed Richards.

In addition to Richards, five others have signalled their eagerness to occupy the hotseat. Two are current Ofcom executives: Kip Meek a specialist in content issues, and competition expert Sean Williams.

The remaining three dark horses are precisely that. All are outsiders but their identity is shrouded - a curious situation for such a high profile and publicly funded position.

According to a report in Friday's MediaGuardian, Ofcom is now a riven camp, with tensions sparked by the rivalry between Richards, Meek and Williams. The newspaper also suggests the ongoing uncertainty is causing other senior Ofcom personnel to mull jumping ship to the commercial sector.

Richards is seen by many, both within and without the Ofcom bunker, as the Anointed One, accoutred for high office by former ceo Stephen Carter and - some believe - by Ofcom's remote controller, prime minister Blair.

Not only was Richards appointed to the number two executive role last year, he was then despatched at public expense to Harvard Business School. Moreover, he is a former advisor to [and appointee of] premier Blair.

Some see it as appropriately symbolic that most horse races are run on a circular track.

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff