Oftel boss wins place on Ofcom board

David Edmonds joins three others on the board of the new super-regulator - but has already warned it will do little to solve the UK's rural broadband crisis
Written by Graeme Wearden, Contributor

David Edmonds, director-general of Oftel, has been appointed to the board of Ofcom, the new super-regulator that will oversee the UK's broadcasting and telecommunications sectors.

The posting means that Edmonds, who has ruled Oftel since 1998, should continue to play a part overseeing the UK's telecommunications market until at least 2005. However, he has already warned that the creation of Ofcom will do little to solve the UK's rural broadband crisis.

The Department of Trade and Industry announced the make-up of the Ofcom board on Wednesday morning. Edmonds will join Urmila Banerjee -- who plans to give up her current position on the Channel 4 board -- and Sara Nathan. Nathan's current work includes membership of the Radio Authority, and she has previously worked as an editor at Channel 4 News, and at BBC Radio.

Richard Hooper, chair of the Radio Authority, will be deputy chairman of Ofcom. The government also plan to appoint Ian Hargreaves -- director of the centre for journalism studies at Cardiff University, and formerly the editor of The Independent -- to the board at a later date.

Each non-executive board member will receive £30,000 in return for a two-day week.

Patricia Hewitt, secretary of state at the DTI, said that the appointments brought a wealth of experience to Ofcom, covering telecommunications, broadcasting and newspapers. "This insight will be invaluable both in establishing Ofcom and beyond, once it starts the crucial job of regulating."

BT welcomed the announcement, and agreed that the Ofcom board members have a wide range of experience. "We wanted the make-up of the board to reflect the wide range of Ofcom's remit, including experience of regulation. It looks like a good balance has been struck," said a BT spokesman.

Ofcom will replace Oftel, the Radiocommunications Authority, the Independent Television Commission, the Broadcasting Standards Commission and the Radio Authority. It will come into effect once the Communications Bill receives Royal Assent, which could be as early as July 2003.

Lord David Currie was appointed chair of Ofcom in July. Shortly afterwards, it transpired he had recently published a research paper that recommended the break-up of BT -- an issue which the culture, media and sport select committee has advised Ofcom to consider.

Interestingly, two of the Ofcom board members have formerly worked for BT. Banerjee spent 25 years with the telco, rising to director level in BT's products and services division, while Hooper was chief executive of value added services at British Telecom (as it was) from 1981 to 1986.

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