Tory plans to limit Ofcom’s power come under attack

David Cameron will move regulator’s policy-making powers back to DCMS.

Cameron: Drive to cut quangos
Cameron: Drive to cut quangos

Critics have thrown cold water over Conservative leader David Cameron’s plans to reduce the policy-making powers of Ofcom as part of a drive to cut quangos, if the Tories win the General Election next year.

In a speech delivered to the think tank Reform this week, Cameron accused quangos of becoming “lobbying organisations” that were making policy, rather than “just delivering policy”.

He said that a Conservative administration would restrict Ofcom to its “narrow technical and enforcement roles”, removing any role in making policy. Cameron added that this remit will be handed back fully to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

But ZenithOptimedia head of investment Chris Hayward says Ofcom has tried to take a positive lead in terms of initiating legislation. “While I haven’t always agreed with its recommendations, at least in the way it has undertaken any reviews or projects has meant that industry stakeholders have been consulted and have had an actual voice,” he says.

“I don’t think that what Cameron is aspiring to is too different to the role Ofcom is occupying now.”

Another media agency executive says Ofcom’s current role is “not too excessive”, adding that “you need to support something like Ofcom to make some really tough calls for the media environment”.

Ofcom’s chief executive is Ed Richards. A spokesman for the regulator says it was “surprised” at being highlighted in the speech.

He claims that since its establishment, it has delivered five consecutive years of real terms budget reductions, reduced headcount by more than 300 people and saved more than £117m in the process – a 21% reduction.

When Ofcom was formed in 2003, it replaced the Independent Television Commission, the Radio Authority, the Office of Telecommunications, the Radiocommunications Agency and the Broadcasting Standards Commission.

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