Super-regulator Ofcom merges tasks

ZDNet tells you what the UK's new super regulatory body Ofcom will do

To cope with accelerating convergence between different broadcasting media and telecommunications technology, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport announced the creation of Ofcom Tuesday, a new body that will combine the work of media, radio and communications watchdogs under a single umbrella. Ofcom will take on the tasks of Oftel, the Independent Television Commission, the Broadcasting Standards Commission, the Radio Authority and the Radio Communications Agency. According to culture secretary Chris Smith the unified super regulator will streamline the processes expected when Internet meets broadcast media. "Broadcasting and telecommunications affect all of us every day. We want to preserve the best of the past and to prepare the UK for the future," said Smith. And already there are clues as to the challenges the board of the new body will face. Advertising is, for example, likely to be an instant thorn. It may become possible to link advertising between television and Internet with click-though buttons incorporated into television programs, but already experts are worried. "The Internet advertising, two clicks approach is controversial," says Telecoms analyst with IDC Niky Walton. "What [Ofcom] is trying to do is introduce consistency across broadcasting and telecommunications." Walton says that Ofcom will also monitor location-based advertising -- where a shop, for example, can tell a passer-by of a special offer using technology that sends the advert to a phone when it is within range -- which telecommunications companies hope will generate revenue for future generations of mobile phones including 3G. Maintaining standards between the converging mediums will also fall under Ofcom's remit, particularly the regulation of content on the Internet. It plans to develop a code of practice for Internet media firms and will work with the Internet Watch Foundation to ensure it has feedback from a trusted independent source. The body will consider complaints concerning invasions of privacy in cooperation with the Data Protection Commission. "We believe that the public needs to have a say in what is on [the Internet]," says a spokesman for the Broadcasting Complaints Commission. "We believe in protecting children... but it is probably impossible to have a watershed on the Internet. The Internet Watch Foundation probably just needs to beef up levels of protection." Ofcom will also have a responsibility for ensuring new opportunities are available to all. It is expected to ensure fair market competition is maintained between of corporations covering and extending influence over intertwined broadcasting mediums and communications technologies. The new body will have responsibility for ensuring fair access to broadband and says it is committed to achieving universal Internet access by 2005. By incorporating the Radio Authority, Ofcom will oversee the move in the UK towards fixed wireless technology telecommunications infrastructure as the government sells off licences for this spectrum. The licensing of DVD's and computer games will also come under its remit. Ofcom's objectives:

  • Creating a dynamic market
  • Ensuring universal access
  • Maintaining diversity and plurality
  • Securing quality
  • Protecting the interests of consumers.
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