U.K. to Review Duties of Broadcast Regulator

"Ofcom and broadcasters are currently legally obliged to spend money and time doing work that isn’t necessarily required,” argues the communications minister.

LONDON -- The British government will review the mandate of broadcast regulator Ofcom in an attempt to "save money and increase efficiency for both the regulator and industry."

In a process announced midweek, the government said it will be looking for input on seven proposed changes, including an end to Ofcom's regular reviews of certain industry issues. Instead, Ofcom could conduct such reviews only when requested.

The review was initiated by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and will run through late June. A reform draft order then will be presented to the British parliament.

"We must ensure that every penny of taxpayers’ money is spent properly," said U.K. communications minister Ed Vaizey. "Ofcom and broadcasters are currently legally obliged to spend money and time doing work that isn’t necessarily required.”

While the reform proposals highlighted the opportunity to optimize Ofcom's work, some government critics argued that members of the ruling Conservative Party often have eyed the regulator with suspicion.

The proposed reforms include:
• Removing Ofcom's obligation to review the U.K. "public service broadcasting landscape every five years." Instead, the British culture secretary could request a review when needed.

• Removing "unnecessary burdens on business so broadcasters will no longer produce annual statements of program policy." Said the government: "These statements are weak regulatory levers, and the relevant information is collected through other means."

• Giving Ofcom more flexibility to change its governance structures, "enabling it to adapt as circumstances change."

• Allowing Ofcom to charge for filing applications for satellite orbits. "This would bring Ofcom into line with regulators in other countries, ending the unintended taxpayer subsidy for companies based anywhere in the world that choose to make applications through Ofcom," the proposal said.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com
Twitter: @georgszalai

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