The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has announced that 19 of its 55 public bodies are being abolished or reformed. The move is part of a drive across Government to increase radically the transparency and accountability of all public services.
DCMS has identified several Ofcom duties which should be amended or removed to return the policy-setting role to the Secretary of State, reduce unnecessary expense and to avoid duplication. The proposed changes are:
- Amend the duty for Ofcom to review public service broadcasting every five years (part 3, section 264 of the Communications Act 2003) so that a review will only be conducted at the discretion of the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State will also determine the scope of the review.
- Allow Ofcom flexibility to implement changes to its governance structures (part 1 section 12-21 of the Communications Act 2003). Any revised structure will require the approval of the Secretary of State.
- Remove the duty on Ofcom to promote development opportunities for training and equality of opportunity (part 1 section 27 of the Communications Act 2003);
- Change the regional Channel 3 networking arrangement review from an annual review to a reserve power for Ofcom to assess as required (section 290-294 and Schedule 11 of the Communications Act 2003);
- Amend the duty for Ofcom to review the media ownership rules every three years (section 391 of the Communications Act 2003) so that a review will be conducted at the discretion of the Secretary of State.
- Remove the requirement for public service broadcasters to provide annual statements of programme policy (266 and 270 of the Communications Act 2003); and
- Amend the duty on Ofcom to review a “change of control” to a Channel 3 licensee or Channel 5 (section 351 and 353 of the Communications Act 2003) so that one isn’t automatically required. However, the Secretary of State will retain the power to request one. The fit and proper persons regime on new owners of channel 3 and 5 licences will remain.
- Enable Ofcom to charge fees for satellite filings made to the International Telecommunications Union (section 28 of the Communications Act 2003).