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Tories plan to neuter Ofcom

If elected, the Conservative Party would take away Ofcom's policy-making functions, David Cameron said on Monday.The Tory leader was making a speech attacking quangos — of which the telecoms regulator is one of the most prominent.
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

If elected, the Conservative Party would take away Ofcom's policy-making functions, David Cameron said on Monday.

The Tory leader was making a speech attacking quangos — of which the telecoms regulator is one of the most prominent. He acknowledged it was "clear that [Ofcom] has an important technical function", specifically in spectrum licensing and keeping an eye on BT, and in ruling on breaches of the broadcasting code, but said other responsibilities should be taken away from Ofcom.

Cameron specified Ofcom's current role in determining the future of regional news and Channel 4, and said these responsibilities "should not be determined by an unaccountable bureaucracy, but by ministers accountable to Parliament".

"So with a Conservative Government, Ofcom as we know it will cease to exist," Cameron said. "Its remit will be restricted to its narrow technical and enforcement roles. It will no longer play a role in making policy. And the policy-making functions it has today will be transferred back fully to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport."

It is not particularly clear whether Cameron specifically wants to take away Ofcom's broadcast-related policy-making functions or also its wider, more technologically-related policy-making functions. If the latter is part of his plan, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport seems an odd choice for such tasks.

In any case, Ofcom is less of a policy-maker than a recommender of policies to the government of the day, which would - if Cameron gets his way - be the Tories.

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