Ofcom

The Office of Communications (Welsh: Y Swyddfa Gyfathrebiadau), commonly known as Ofcom, is the UK government-approved regulatory and competition authority for the broadcasting, telecommunications and postal industries of the United Kingdom.

Ofcom has wide-ranging powers across the television, radio, telecoms and postal sectors. It has a statutory duty to represent the interests of citizens and consumers by promoting competition and protecting the public from harmful or offensive material.[2][3]

Some of the main areas Ofcom presides over are licensing, research, codes and policies, complaints, competition and protecting the radio spectrum from abuse (e.g. pirate radio stations).

The regulator was initially established by the Office of Communications Act 2002 and received its full authority from the Communications Act 2003.[1]

Office of Communications
Ofcom logo
Riverside House, Bankside 01
Ofcom offices at Riverside House, Bankside, next to Southwark Bridge
AbbreviationOfcom
Formation29 December 2003
TypeStatutory corporation
Legal statusCreated by Office of Communications Act 2002[1]
PurposeRegulator and competition authority for broadcasting, postal services, telecommunications and radiocommunications spectrum
HeadquartersLondon, England
Location
Region served
United Kingdom
Official language
English, Welsh
Chairman
Lord Burns
Chief Executive
Sharon White
Main organ
Board of Directors
Websiteofcom.org.uk

History

The creation of Ofcom was announced in the Queen's Speech to the UK Parliament, in June 2001. The new body, which would replace several existing authorities, was conceived as a "super-regulator" to oversee media channels that were rapidly converging through digital transmission.[4] Ofcom launched on 29 December 2003, formally inheriting the duties that had previously been the responsibility of five different regulators:[5]

In July 2009, Conservative party opposition leader David Cameron said in a speech against the proliferation of quangos that:

With a Conservative government, Ofcom as we know it will cease to exist… 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.[6][7]

Under Cameron's subsequent premiership of the 2010 UK coalition government, the Public Bodies Act 2011 did remove or modify several of Ofcom's duties, although it did not substantially reduce Ofcom's remit.[8]

On 1 October 2011, Ofcom took over responsibility for regulating the postal services industry from the Postal Services Commission (Postcomm).

In April 2015, Ofcom announced that telephone companies would have to provide customers with a set charge for the cost of calling numbers starting 084, 087 and 09. The streamlining of these charges must be printed in each customer's contract and monthly bills. The change came into force on 1 July 2015 and affected over 175 million phone numbers, making it the biggest overhaul of telephoning in over a decade.[9]

On 1 January 2016, the regulation of video on demand was transferred to Ofcom from ATVOD, the Authority for Television on Demand.[10]

The Digital Economy Act 2017 extended Ofcom's remit and powers. Ofcom were given powers concerning the minimum broadband speed provided by Internet service providers, the ability to financially penalise communications providers for failing to comply with licence commitments and the power to require public service broadcasters to include a minimum quantity of children's programming made in the United Kingdom. The act also transferred to Ofcom the regulation of the BBC, a duty previously undertaken by the BBC Trust,[11][12] and updated the Ofcom Electronic Communications Code to make it easier for telecommunications companies to erect and extend mobile masts.[13]

News International phone hacking scandal

In July 2011, in the wake of the News International phone hacking scandal, Ofcom came under pressure to launch an inquiry into whether the parent company of News International, News Corporation, was still the "fit and proper" owner of a controlling stake in the satellite broadcasting company British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB). On 13 July former Prime Minister Gordon Brown urged Ofcom to launch an investigation.[14][15] On 15 July the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg stated that the Government would launch a review of laws on what constituted a "fit and proper" owner for broadcasting companies in the United Kingdom, and that anyone found not to meet that standard can be forced to give up their current holdings in a company.[16]

On 22 July 2011, it was reported that Ofcom had begun an investigation into whether the phone-hacking scandal may have changed BSkyB's status as the "fit and proper" holder of a UK broadcasting licence.[17] On the same day Ed Richards, the then chief executive of Ofcom, replied to Simon Hughes MP, Don Foster MP and Tim Farron MP following a letter which they had written to him on 8 July concerning News Corporation's shareholding in BSkyB.[18] In the letter Richards confirmed that Ofcom considers that News Corporation's current shareholding of 39.14% in BSkyB does give it a material influence over the company; that Ofcom is not precluded from acting by ongoing police investigations; and that Ofcom's process is not dependent upon a criminal conviction being secured.[18]

In April 2012, Ofcom's probe moved from a monitoring phase to an "evidence gathering" phase.[19]

Timeline of Communications Regulators (1953–present)

* Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications[20]

Activities

Television and radio

Ofcom licenses all UK commercial television and radio services in the UK. Broadcasters must comply by the terms of their licence, or risk having it revoked. Ofcom also publishes the Broadcasting Code, a series of rules which all broadcast content on television and radio must follow.[21] The Broadcasting Code requires that content inappropriate for children should not be broadcast between the hours of 5:30 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. Premium-rate film services may broadcast content equivalent to a BBFC 15 certificate at any time of day provided a PIN-protected system is in place to restrict access to those authorised to view it.[22] The broadcasting of pornography with a BBFC R18 certificate is not permitted.[23] In 2010 Ofcom revoked the licences of four free-to-air television channels for promoting adult chat services during daytime hours and transmitting content that was too sexually explicit. The companies involved were fined £157,250.[24] Ofcom's jurisdiction does not cover television and radio channels which are broadcast in the UK but licensed abroad. In 2012 Ofcom lodged a complaint with the Dutch media regulator regarding the content of adult chat television channels which are broadcast in the UK but licensed in the Netherlands.[25] Based on a survey of 200 British respondents, Ofcom published in 2016 a list of about 50 words classified in four grades of offensiveness, from "milder" to "strongest."[26]

Telephone and broadband

Ofcom regulates the UK telecoms sector, defining and enforcing the conditions by which all mobile and fixed-line phone and broadband companies must abide. These 'general conditions' are wide-ranging rules relating to matters such as telephone numbering, emergency services, sales, marketing and interconnection standards. Ofcom's investigation unit monitors compliance with the conditions and resolves disputes between providers.

Ofcom is also the competition authority for telecoms, enforcing remedies in markets where it believes dominant operators may have a potentially harmful influence on competition or consumers. One of its most high-profile interventions was to require BT to split its wholesale and retail arms into separate companies, bringing about the creation of Openreach which supplies wholesale services to both BT Retail and competing providers.[27]

On 1 July 2015, Ofcom made a number of changes to the way phone calls to UK service numbers would be charged. Under the new legislation, which was promoted by an information campaign entitled UK Calling,[28] call charges must be clearly stated on all materials that advertise a service number. The changes came after research found that callers are often confused about service call charges, and thus can avoid calling these numbers. The July 2015 changes also saw 'freephone numbers' 0800 and 0808 become free to call from both mobiles and landlines.[29]

In March 2016, Ofcom launched an interactive "Mobile coverage and fixed broadband checker",[30] allowing people to check mobile coverage and broadband speeds via their post code.

Spectrum licensing and protection

Ofcom is responsible for the management, regulation, assignment and licensing of the electromagnetic spectrum in the UK, and licenses portions of it for use in television and radio broadcasts, mobile phone transmissions, private communications networks, wireless devices and so on. The process of licensing varies depending on the type of use required. Some licences simply have to be applied and paid for, other commercial licences are subject to a bidding process. Most of the procedures in place have been inherited from the systems used by the previous regulators. However, Ofcom may change some of these processes in future.

Ofcom protects the radio spectrum in a number of ways:

  • Working within international organisations (ITU, CEPT and BEREC).
  • Licensing UK-controlled commercial radio spectrum; the Ministry of Defence controls its own spectrum. Within the international framework for frequency use; Ofcom liaises through the UK Government to produce the UKFAT (UK Frequency Allocation Table). The current table was produced in 2017.
  • Investigate and, when necessary, carry out enforcement activities to clear interference or illegal use from the spectrum. Until June 2010 Ofcom investigated all interference cases within the UK. Interference reporting has now been transferred to the BBC. This contract specifically excludes any requirement to investigate interference relating to AM radio reception.[31] Commercial and spectrum licence holders report to Ofcom and in all cases illegal ("pirate") radio operations are still reported to Ofcom.

Postal services

In October 2010 the government announced plans for Ofcom to inherit the functions of Postcomm as part of a wider set of public service sell-off measures.[32] Following the Postal Services Act 2011 regulatory responsibility for postal services transferred to Ofcom on 1 October 2011, with its primary duty to maintain the UK's six-day-a-week universal postal service.

Consultations

Ofcom makes extensive use of consultations with industry and the public to help it make decisions based upon the evidence presented. Consultation processes begin with publishing documents on its website,[33] asking for views and responses. If the document is perceived to be long and complicated, a plain English summary is usually published as well. A period, usually of 10 weeks, is allowed for interested persons, companies or organisations to send in their responses to the consultation.

After this consultation period, Ofcom publishes all the responses on its website, excluding any personal or confidential information. Ofcom then prepares a summary of the responses received, and uses this information as a basis for its decisions.[34]

Leadership

Current

Lord (Terry) Burns was appointed as chairman of Ofcom for a four-year term from 1 January 2018.[35]

Sharon White became Ofcom's chief executive in 2015, replacing Ed Richards.[36]

On 15 March 2016 it was announced that Steve Gettings would become Corporation Secretary in succession to Graham Howell.[37]

Historical

The first chairman of Ofcom (2002–2009) was David Currie, Dean of Cass Business School at City University and a life peer under the title Lord Currie of Marylebone. The first chief executive (2003–2007) was Stephen Carter, Baron Carter of Barnes, formerly a senior executive of JWT UK and NTL and subsequently a Minister for Communications, Technology and Broadcasting.[38]

Colette Bowe was appointed Ofcom chairman with effect from 11 March 2009.[39][40][41] She was the founding chairman of the Telecoms Ombudsman Council, and chaired Ofcom's Consumer Panel from its inception in 2003 to December 2007.

Dame Patricia Hodgson DBE was appointed as chairman of Ofcom for a three-year term from April 2014. She was a member of the Ofcom board from July 2011 and became deputy chairman in January 2012.[42] On 18 July 2016 it was announced that her term would be extended for a further year until 2018.[43]

Key personnel

Ofcom's key personnel are:[44]

  • Chief executive, Sharon White
  • Board members:
    • Dr Stephen Unger, appointed April 2015
    • Graham Mather, appointed June 2014
    • Jonathan Oxley, appointed January 2015
    • Ben Verwaayen
    • Nick Pollard, appointed November 2016
    • Tim Suter, appointed 29 September 2017[45]
    • David Jones, appointed 8 April 2019

Ofcom publishes a register of disclosable interests of the Ofcom board.[46]

Ofcom committees

Ofcom has a number of committees and advisory bodies which inform the Ofcom Board and Executive. These include:[47]

  • Communications Consumer Panel (CCP)
  • Advisory Committee for Older and Disabled People (ACOD)
  • Risk and Audit Committee
  • Nominations Committee
  • Remuneration Committee
  • Election Committee
  • Non-Executive Remuneration Committee
  • Nations Committee
  • Advisory Committee for England
  • Advisory Committee for Northern Ireland
  • Advisory Committee for Scotland
  • Advisory Committee for Wales
  • Community Radio Fund Panel
  • Ofcom Spectrum Advisory Board (OSAB)
  • Broadcast Licensing Committee

Controversies

Expenditure

Ofcom has received criticism for incurring unnecessary costs as a result of "extravagant Thames-side offices" and a "top-heavy salary bill",[48] for inflexibility in its regulation of commercial radio,[49] and for "poor service".[50] In response to ongoing expenditure concerns, Ofcom made the following statement regarding the 2017/2018 budget: "Ofcom has delivered 12 consecutive years of like-for-like real-terms budget reductions, and we will continue to reduce spending wherever we can."[51]

Al Jazeera

The Qatar-based newsmedia outlet was reported[52] to Ofcom in January 2017, following an exposé about Israeli diplomatic[53] corp irregularities and influence peddling amongst political and student groups in the UK. After investigations exceeding eight months, Ofcom reported that Al Jazeera was in line with journalism standards and cleared the filmmakers of the allegations.[54]

Press TV

In May 2011, Ofcom ruled that Press TV, an Iranian English-language satellite channel, was responsible for a serious breach of UK broadcasting rules and could face a fine for airing an interview with Maziar Bahari, the Newsweek journalist arrested covering the Iranian presidential election in 2009, that was obtained by force while he was held in a Tehran jail.[55]

Upon the release of Ofcom's findings, Press TV claimed that Maziar Bahari was "an MI6 contact person"[56] taking guidance from "The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, protocol No. 7".[57] Press TV called Ofcom's ruling "part of an anti-Iranian campaign," and that "A quick look at senior decision makers at OFCOM demonstrates that the regulator is mostly made up of former Channel 4 and BBC executives, some of whom are well-linked to and influenced by powerful pro-Israeli politicians."[58][59]

Sitefinder database and freedom of information

The Sitefinder database is a national database of mobile phone base stations in the UK.[60] In September 2007 an Information Tribunal ruled that the public should have access to the database under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.[61] However, as Ofcom has no legal power to force mobile phone operators to add information to the database, UK mobile phone operators consequently ceased updating it.[27] Ofcom appealed against the Freedom of Information Act ruling, together with one UK mobile operator – T-Mobile.[62] This has led to accusations of the organisation's complicity with the mobile telecommunications industry in keeping information about mast locations secret.[63] Ofcom's stated reasons for the appeal have ranged from "preventing terrorist attacks" on the sites of phone masts to "protecting the intellectual property" of the mobile telecommunications industry.[62]

In April 2008, the High Court found in favour of the Information Commissioner's Office and over-ruled Ofcom's objections. Ofcom appealed to the Supreme Court, who in turn referred a point of law to the European Court of Justice, and then in October 2011 ordered that the matter should be remitted to the Information Rights Tribunal to reconsider the public interest balancing exercise.[64] On 12 December 2012, the Information Rights Tribunal upheld its decision of 4 September 2007.[65]

Deryn Consulting controversy

In 2017 Ofcom’s advisory committee for Wales awarded Deryn Consulting a contract to monitor the National Assembly for Wales and Welsh Government. It was subsequently reported that the contract had not been put out to tender and that Huw Roberts and Nerys Evans held positions for both Deryn and Ofcom.[66][67] The contract was terminated[68] and Ofcom concluded that it had broken its own procurement rules.[69]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b "Office of Communications Act 2002 – 2002 CHAPTER 11". Office of Public Sector Information. 19 March 2002. Retrieved 23 February 2010.
  2. ^ "Your rights – Ofcom". The Liberty Guide to Human Rights. Liberty. 12 August 2010. Archived from the original on 11 January 2014. Retrieved 11 January 2014.
  3. ^ Lunt, Peter; Livingstone, Sonia (2007). "Regulating markets in the interest of consumers?: on the changing regime of governance in the financial service and communications sectors.". Governance, consumers and citizens: agency and resistance in contemporary politics (PDF). Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 139–161. Retrieved 11 January 2014. Footnote 15.
  4. ^ "Queen announces media shake-up". BBC News. 20 June 2001.
  5. ^ "'Super-regulator' Ofcom launches". BBC News. 29 December 2003.
  6. ^ Chris Williams (6 July 2009). "Ofcom top of Tory deathlist – Quangogeddon". The Register. Retrieved 23 February 2010.
  7. ^ Leigh Holmwood (6 July 2009). "Ofcom hits back at David Cameron". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 March 2016.
  8. ^ "Ofcom". Politics.co.uk.
  9. ^ "Ofcom cracks down on hidden charges in TV phone-ins". The Daily Telegraph. 27 April 2015. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  10. ^ Jasper Jackson (14 October 2015). "Ofcom to take on regulation of video-on-demand services". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 March 2016.
  11. ^ Jamie Rigg (3 May 2017). "How the Digital Economy Act will come between you and porn". engadget. Retrieved 20 December 2017.
  12. ^ "Digital Economy Bill: Networks and porn sites face fines". BBC News. 6 July 2016. Retrieved 7 July 2016.
  13. ^ Paul Carter (18 October 2016). "Small cells and 5G: What the Digital Economy Bill changes mean for operators". Telecoms Tech. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  14. ^ "Brown Urges Ofcom to Probe News Corp.'s Existing BSkyB Stake". San Francisco Chronicle. 13 July 2011. Retrieved 24 July 2011.
  15. ^ Hutton, Robert (14 July 2011). "Brown Calls on Regulator to Probe News Corp.'s Existing BSkyB Shareholding". Bloomberg L.P. Retrieved 24 July 2011.
  16. ^ Kirkup, James (15 July 2011). "Phone Hacking: Murdoch's grip on BSkyB may be threatened, warns Clegg". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 24 July 2011.
  17. ^ "UK regulator begins probe into BSkyB's status". Financial Times. 22 July 2011. Retrieved 24 July 2011.
  18. ^ a b "Letter to Simon Hughes, Don Foster and Tim Farron MP from Ed Richards July 22, 2011". Ofcom. Archived from the original on 20 September 2011. Retrieved 25 July 2011.
  19. ^ Katherine Rushton Ofcom steps up 'fit and proper' probe into BSkyB, The Daily Telegraph. 26 April 2012
  20. ^ "Regulator archives". Ofcom. 24 June 2010.
  21. ^ "Ofcom broadcasting". Ofcom.
  22. ^ "Appendix 3: International Comparison of Classification and Content Regulation – The United Kingdom". Australian Law Reform Commission. 1 March 2012. Retrieved 16 March 2016.
  23. ^ Joe Lepper (25 May 2005). "Ofcom to consider product placement on TV and radio". Brand Republic. Retrieved 16 March 2016.
  24. ^ "Adult TV channels become first to lose licences". BBC News. 26 November 2010. Retrieved 16 March 2016.
  25. ^ Del Crookes (8 March 2012). "Ofcom lodges porn TV complaint with Dutch regulator". BBC newsbeat. Retrieved 16 March 2016.
  26. ^ Will Butler (3 October 2016). "Ofcom Have Officially Ranked Every British Swear Word". Look Magazine.
  27. ^ a b "Overview of UK telecommunications regulation". Chartered Institute for IT.
  28. ^ "UK Calling". Ofcom.
  29. ^ burton, Tony. "July number Change". 0345 Numbers.
  30. ^ "Mobile coverage and fixed broadband checker". maps.ofcom.org.uk. Retrieved 4 April 2016.
  31. ^ "About Us". Radio & Television Investigation Service. 8 April 2013.
  32. ^ Tim Bradshaw (21 October 2010). "Ofcom to cut staff by a fifth". Financial Times.
  33. ^ "List of Ofcom consultations". Stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk. 24 May 2010. Retrieved 2 May 2012.
  34. ^ "Ofcom – Official Website – Homepage".
  35. ^ "Lord (Terry) Burns". DCMS. 13 December 2017.
  36. ^ "Ofcom Board appoints Sharon White as Chief Executive". Ofcom. 16 December 2014.
  37. ^ "Note of the 225th Meeting of the Ofcom Board, held on 15 March 2016" (PDF). Ofcom. 22 March 2016.
  38. ^ "Lord Carter of Barnes". Department for Business, Information and Skills. 6 November 2009. Archived from the original on 14 July 2009. Retrieved 2 May 2012.
  39. ^ "Colette Bowe". Ofcom. Archived from the original on 30 April 2012. Retrieved 2 May 2012.
  40. ^ Colette Bowe Institute of Competition Law. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
  41. ^ Sweney, Mark (17 December 2008). "Colette Bowe appointed as Ofcom chair". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 August 2017.
  42. ^ "Dame Patricia Hodgson DBE". Ofcom. 1 February 2012. Archived from the original on 21 April 2014. Retrieved 20 April 2014.
  43. ^ "Dame Patricia Hodgson to remain Ofcom Chairman until 2018". Ofcom. Retrieved 22 May 2017.
  44. ^ "Ofcom Board". Ofcom. 25 June 2010. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  45. ^ "New Ofcom board member appointed". Ofcom. 29 September 2017. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  46. ^ "Register of disclosable interests". Ofcom. Retrieved 22 May 2017.
  47. ^ "Ofcom committees". Ofcom. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  48. ^ David Rowan (31 December 2003). "Interview: Stephen Carter & David Currie, Ofcom (Evening Standard)". davidrowan.com. Archived from the original on 13 October 2008.
  49. ^ Plunkett, John (5 June 2007). "Ofcom accused of 'Nero approach'". The Guardian. London.
  50. ^ "Poor Service from OFCOM". Letsfixbritain.com. Archived from the original on 3 November 2004. Retrieved 2 May 2012.
  51. ^ "Ofcom confirms priorities for 2017/18". ofcom.org.uk. 30 March 2017.
  52. ^ "Israel moves against Al Jazeera". BBC News. 6 August 2017. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  53. ^ Lizzie Dearden (12 January 2017). "Israeli embassy official caught discussing 'take down' of pro-Palestinian MPs quits". The Independent. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  54. ^ Ruddick, Graham (9 October 2017). "Ofcom clears al-Jazeera of antisemitism in exposé of Israeli official". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  55. ^ Sweney, Mark (23 May 2011). "Iran's Press TV censured for interview with arrested journalist". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 25 May 2011.
  56. ^ "PressTV – A British game against PressTV". Press TV. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 28 October 2012.
  57. ^ "PressTV – Empire continues to sweat over Press TV". Press TV. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 28 October 2012.
  58. ^ "PressTV – OfCom, UK Office of Miscommunication". Press TV. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 28 October 2012.
  59. ^ "PressTV – The OFCOM sitcom". Press TV. Archived from the original on 18 October 2015. Retrieved 28 October 2012.
  60. ^ "Ofcom | Frequently Asked Questions". Stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk. 21 June 2010. Retrieved 20 April 2014.
  61. ^ "Data row hits mobile mast website". Technology. BBC News. 2 October 2007. Retrieved 6 January 2010.
  62. ^ a b Bill Ray (13 September 2007). "Ofcom fails to prevent release of cell locations – But operators might not play ball". Networks. Retrieved 23 February 2010.
  63. ^ Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor (27 May 2007). "Phone mast locations kept from public". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 21 December 2008. Retrieved 23 February 2010.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  64. ^ "Sitefinder: Frequently Asked Questions". Ofcom. Retrieved 21 August 2012.
  65. ^ "EIR Exemptions and Aggregation : a round trip". Panopticon Blog. 17 December 2012. Retrieved 20 April 2014.
  66. ^ Private Eye, March 9th, 2018. p13.
  67. ^ Martin Shipton (24 February 2017). "Ofcom Wales under fire after contract awarded to insiders' company". Wales Online.
  68. ^ Martin Shipton (21 August 2017). "A controversial contract awarded by Ofcom to a Welsh lobbying firm has been terminated". Wales Online.
  69. ^ Martin Shipton (23 October 2017). "Ofcom admits it broke its own rules in giving contract to lobbying firm run by its own advisors". Wales Online.

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Coordinates: 51°30′28″N 0°05′43″W / 51.5079°N 0.0953°W

BBC Trust

The BBC Trust was the governing body of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) between 2007 and 2017. It was operationally independent of BBC management and external bodies, and its stated aim was to make decisions in the best interests of licence-fee payers. On 12 May 2016, it was announced in the House of Commons that, under the next Royal Charter, the regulatory functions of the BBC Trust were to be transferred to Ofcom.

The trust was established by the 2007 Royal Charter for the BBC, which came into effect on 1 January in that year. The trust, and a formalised Executive Board, replaced the former Board of Governors. The decision to establish the trust followed the Hutton Inquiry, which had heavily criticised the BBC for its coverage of the death of David Kelly; Labour's political opponents, as well as large numbers of its supporters, saw the Hutton Inquiry as a whitewash, designed to deflect criticism from Tony Blair's government.

In summary, the main roles of the Trust are in setting the overall strategic direction of the BBC, including its priorities, and in exercising a general oversight of the work of the Executive Board. The Trust will perform these roles in the public interest, particularly the interest of licence fee payers. — BBC Royal Charter (2006)

The BBC Trust closed on 2 April 2017 at the expiry of the 2007 Royal Charter, which had a 10-year lifespan. Labour had lost power in 2010, and other political parties had established a parliamentary majority by the time it came to the moment for a new Royal Charter to be written. Governance of the BBC was transferred to the new BBC Board in April 2017, with Ofcom assuming regulatory duties.

Celebrity Big Brother racism controversy

The Celebrity Big Brother racism controversy was a series of events related to incidents of allegedly racist behaviour by contestants on the fifth series of the British reality television show Celebrity Big Brother, broadcast on British television station Channel 4 in January 2007. The controversy centred on comments made by British contestants Jade Goody, Danielle Lloyd, and Jo O'Meara, concerning Indian contestant Shilpa Shetty. The screening of these comments on UK television resulted in national and international media coverage, responses from the UK and Indian governments, and the show's suspension during the 2008 season.

Many agencies and corporations cancelled their contracts with the housemates accused of racism, citing the allegations as the reason for the terminations. Also, many sponsors of the Big Brother series cancelled their sponsorship of the show. After the show, Goody stated that she understood her comments appeared as racist and apologised for any offence caused. Shetty later told the media that she forgave Goody. After conducting an investigation, Ofcom ruled that Channel 4 had breached the Broadcasting Code, and statutory sanctions were placed on the network.

Digital radio in the United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the roll-out of digital radio is proceeding since engineering test transmissions were started by the BBC in 1990 followed by a public launch in September 1995. The UK currently has the world's biggest digital radio network, with 103 transmitters, three national DAB ensembles and 48 local and regional DAB ensembles broadcasting over 250 commercial and 34 BBC radio stations across the UK. In the capital, London there are already more than 64 different digital stations available. In addition to DAB and DAB+, radio stations are also broadcast on digital television platform as well as internet radio in the UK. Digital radio ensemble operators and stations need a broadcasting licence from the UK's media regulator Ofcom to broadcast.

In the long term there will be a switchover from analogue to digital radio when the AM and FM services will cease. The government has set criteria on the coverage and proportion of digital listening before this occurs. In 2018 the criteria of over 50% of digital radio listening was met which will now require the UK Government to review digital radio in view of a potential switchover. In the same year, the BBC stated it would keep some FM radio for the foreseeable future.Digital radio in the United Kingdom is being promoted by radio stations and the broadcasting industry on the premise that it provides superior quality sound over AM, a wider choice of radio stations, is easier to use, and is resistant to the interference which other broadcast media are susceptible to. On the other hand, critics say that coverage is not yet sufficient and the quality can be less than that of FM.

In the UK, 50.9% of all radio listening hours by the first quarter of 2018 were through digital platforms, with DAB making up for the majority of digital radio listening (72.3%), and 63.7% of UK households claim to have access to a DAB radio set. However in the second quarter, digital listening had dropped back to 50.2%

Digital terrestrial television in the United Kingdom

Digital terrestrial television in the United Kingdom encompasses over 100 television, radio and interactive services broadcast via the United Kingdom's terrestrial television network and receivable with a standard television set. The majority of digital terrestrial television (DTT) services, including the five former analogue channels, are broadcast free-to-air, and a further selection of encrypted pay TV services (such as BT Sport) are also available.

Freeview is the only DTT service since Top Up TV closed in 2013. BT TV offers only BT Sport on DTT and their other services are carried via IPTV signals.

The digital broadcasting technology adopted in the UK is the DVB-T system (Digital Video Broadcasting – Terrestrial) carrying compressed digital audio, video and other data in a combined transport stream, using COFDM modulation. A total of eight national and one local 'multiplexes' are broadcast in the UK, guaranteed to reach over 90% of the country. Three of the multiplexes, carrying the free public service channels operated by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, S4C and Channel 5, are guaranteed wider coverage still, reaching 98.5% of the country including areas dependent on low-power local relays.In the UK, the switchover from analogue to digital TV started on 17 October 2007 and was completed on 24 October 2012. Each group of regional transmitters had its analogue broadcasts switched off at a certain point between those dates.

Freeview (UK)

Freeview is the United Kingdom's digital terrestrial television platform. It is operated by DTV Services Ltd, a joint venture between the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky and transmitter operator Arqiva. It was launched in 2002, taking over the licence from ITV Digital which collapsed that year. The service provides consumer access via an aerial to the six DTT multiplexes covering the United Kingdom. In April 2014 it had some 60 DVB-T TV channels, 26 digital radio channels, 10 HD channels, six text services, 11 streamed channels, and one interactive channel. A number of new HD channels launched in 2014, from a new group of multiplexes awarded to Arqiva. The new HD channels were launched in selected areas on 10 December 2013 with a further roll-out during 2014.

DTV Services' delivery of standard-definition television and radio is labelled Freeview, while its delivery of HDTV is called Freeview HD. Reception of Freeview requires a Freeview tuner, either in a separate set-top box or built into the TV set. Since 2008 all new TV sets sold in the United Kingdom have a built-in Freeview tuner. Freeview HD requires a HDTV-capable tuner. Digital video recorders (DVRs) with a built-in Freeview tuner are labelled Freeview+. Depending on model, DVRs and HDTV sets with a Freeview tuner may offer standard Freeview or Freeview HD.

The technical specification for Freeview is published and maintained by the Digital TV Group, the industry association for digital TV in the UK which also provide the test and conformance regime for Freeview, Freeview + and Freeview HD products. DMOL (DTT Multiplex Operators Ltd.), a company owned by the operators of the six DTT multiplexes (BBC, ITV, C4, and Arqiva) is responsible for technical platform management and policy, including the electronic programme guide and channel numbering.Since the completion of the digital switch-over on 24 October 2012, there is no terrestrial analogue television being broadcast in the United Kingdom, and all broadcast terrestrial TV is delivered through digital terrestrial television.

Heart (radio network)

Heart is a radio network of 12 adult contemporary local stations operated by Global in the United Kingdom, broadcasting a mix of local and networked programming. Nine of the Heart stations are owned by Global, while the other three are operated under franchise agreements.

ITV (TV network)

ITV is a British free-to-air television network with its headquarters in London. It was launched in 1955 as Independent Television, under the auspices of the Independent Television Authority (ITA) (later the Independent Broadcasting Authority, after the Sound Broadcasting Act 1972, and currently Ofcom), to provide competition to BBC Television which had been established in 1932. ITV is the oldest commercial network in the UK. Since the passing of the Broadcasting Act 1990, its legal name has been Channel 3, to distinguish it from the other analogue channels at the time, namely BBC 1, BBC 2 and Channel 4. In part, the number 3 was assigned because television sets would usually be tuned so that the regional ITV station would be on the third button, with the other stations being allocated to the number within their name.

ITV is a network of television companies that operate regional television services and also share programmes between each other to be shown on the entire network. In recent years, several of these companies have merged, so currently the fifteen regional franchises are in the hands of two companies.

The ITV network is to be distinguished from ITV plc, the company that resulted from the merger of Granada plc and Carlton Communications in 2004 and which holds the Channel 3 broadcasting licences in England, Wales, southern Scotland, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands and Northern Ireland. With the exception of Northern Ireland, the ITV brand is the brand used by ITV plc for the Channel 3 service in these areas. In Northern Ireland, ITV plc uses the brand name UTV. STV Group plc uses the STV brand for its two franchises of central and northern Scotland.

Independent Television Commission

The Independent Television Commission (ITC) licensed and regulated commercial television services in the United Kingdom (except S4C in Wales) between 1 January 1991 and 28 December 2003. In this context, 'independent' indicates freedom from the BBC, rather than the government, as the latter is taken as being read.

Local television in the United Kingdom

Local television in the United Kingdom, described in legislation as Local Digital Television Programme Services (L-DTPS), provides a television station for a specific local area. Successful applicants are awarded a sole licence for their chosen area, and are expected to locate their studios within the same area. They broadcast on the digital terrestrial (DTT) system, as used by the national Freeview service.

The independent regulator, Ofcom, invites applications in all areas where transmission is technically possible, and assesses proposals against the statutory criteria.

Openreach

Openreach is a functional division of telecommunications company BT plc, that maintains the telephone cables, ducts, cabinets and exchanges that connect nearly all homes and businesses in the United Kingdom to the national broadband and telephone network.

It was established in 2006 following an agreement between BT and the UK's telecoms regulator, Ofcom, to implement certain undertakings, pursuant to the Enterprise Act 2002, to ensure that rival telecom operators have equality of access to BT's local network.Openreach manages BT's local access network which connects customers to their local telephone exchange, starting at the main distribution frame (MDF) in the exchange and ending at the network termination point (NTP) at the end user's premises. Openreach also manages the connections between the MDF and the BT Wholesale/local-loop unbundling (LLU) termination points located in the exchange, often referred to as jumper connections.

In March 2017, after various negotiations with, and demands from, Ofcom, BT plc agreed to divest Openreach's staff and non-network assets into a legally separate company, Openreach Limited. However, the network assets would still be owned by BT plc to ensure the longevity of leases and covenants, and Openreach Limited would still be wholly owned by BT plc's parent holding company, BT Group plc.

RT (TV network)

RT (formerly Russia Today) is a Russian international television network funded by the Russian government. It operates pay television channels directed to audiences outside of Russia, as well as providing Internet content in English, Spanish, French, German, Arabic and Russian.

RT International, based in Moscow, presents around-the-clock news bulletins, documentaries, talk shows, debates, sports news, and cultural programmes that it says provide "a Russian viewpoint on major global events". RT operates as a multilingual service with conventional channels in five languages: the original English-language channel was launched in 2005, the Arabic-language channel in 2007, Spanish in 2009, German in 2014 and French in 2017. RT America (since 2010), RT UK (since 2014), and other regional channels also offer some locally based content.

RT is a brand of "TV-Novosti", an "autonomous non-profit organization", founded by the Russian news agency, RIA Novosti, on 6 April 2005. During the economic crisis in December 2008, the Russian government, headed by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, included ANO "TV-Novosti" on its list of core organizations of strategic importance of Russia.RT has been frequently described as a propaganda outlet for the Russian government and its foreign policy. RT has also been accused of spreading disinformation by news reporters, including some former RT reporters. The United Kingdom media regulator, Ofcom, has repeatedly found RT to have breached its rules on impartiality and on one occasion found it had broadcast "materially misleading" content. RT's editor-in-chief compared it with the Russian Army and Defence Ministry, and talked about it "waging the information war against the entire Western world." In September 2017, RT America was ordered to register as a "foreign agent" with the United States Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Under the act, RT will be required to disclose financial information.

Radio format

A radio format or programming format (not to be confused with broadcast programming) describes the overall content broadcast on a radio station. In countries where radio spectrum use is legally regulated (such as by OFCOM in the UK), formats may have a legal status where stations are licensed to transmit only specific formats.Radio formats are frequently employed as a marketing tool, and are subject to frequent change. Music radio, old time radio, all-news radio, sports radio, talk radio and weather radio describe the operation of different genres of radio format and each format can often be sub-divided into many specialty formats.

Restricted Service Licence

A UK Restricted Service Licence (often called an RSL), is typically granted to radio stations and television stations broadcasting within the UK to serve a local community or a special event. Licences are granted by the broadcasting authority Ofcom (formerly the Radio Authority and the Independent Television Commission, respectively).

S4C Authority

The S4C Authority (Welsh: Awdurdod S4C) is an independent public body appointed by the United Kingdom Government's Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to oversee the management of the Welsh-language television channel S4C and to regulate the quality of the channel's output. Although an independent body, the authority works in conjunction with the UK-wide broadcasting and telecommunications regulator Ofcom.

The current members of the S4C Authority are Bill Davies, John Davies, Cenwyn Edwards, Dyfrig Jones, Glenda Jones, Huw Jones (Chair), Winston Roddick, and Rheon Thomas (Vice Chair).

In the spending review which he presented to the House of Commons on 20 October 2010, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, announced that part of the responsibility for funding S4C was to be transferred to the BBC. On 10 August 2012, the BBC Board, Ofcom and the S4C Authority launched a public consultation on a draft Operating Agreement concluded between the two broadcasters and setting out their relationship from 1 April 2013, the date following which it is intended that the majority of S4C’s funding will come from the BBC licence fee.

Sky Picnic

Sky Picnic was a proposed pay television service to launch from BSkyB. It would have sat alongside Freeview and Top Up TV on the digital terrestrial television (DTT) platform in the United Kingdom. It was first proposed in 2007 and was cleared to launch in 2010; however BSkyB never officially launched the service, and it was ultimately superseded by the internet-based Now TV platform.

Telephone numbers in the United Kingdom

Telephone numbers in the United Kingdom are administered by the UK government's Office of Communications (Ofcom). For this purpose Ofcom established a telephone numbering plan, known as the National Telephone Numbering Plan, which is the system for assigning telephone numbers to subscriber stations.

The numbers are of variable length. Local numbers are supported from land-lines, or numbers can be dialled with a '0'-lead prefix that denotes either a geographical region or another service. Cell phone numbers have their own prefixes which are not geographical and are completely portable between providers.

Television in the United Kingdom

Television in the United Kingdom started in 1936 as a public service which was free of advertising. Currently, the United Kingdom has a collection of free-to-air, free-to-view and subscription services over a variety of distribution media, through which there are over 480 channels for consumers as well as on-demand content. There are six main channel owners who are responsible for most material viewed. There are 27,000 hours of domestic content produced a year at a cost of £2.6 billion. Since 24 October 2012, all television broadcasts in the United Kingdom have been in a digital format, following the end of analogue transmissions in Northern Ireland. Digital content is delivered via terrestrial, satellite and cable, as well as over IP.

The Great Global Warming Swindle

The Great Global Warming Swindle is a polemical documentary film that suggests that the scientific opinion on climate change is influenced by funding and political factors, and questions whether scientific consensus on global warming exists. The program was formally criticised by Ofcom, the UK broadcasting regulatory agency, which upheld complaints of misrepresentation made by David King.

The film, made by British television producer Martin Durkin, presents scientists, economists, politicians, writers, and others who dispute the scientific consensus regarding anthropogenic global warming. The programme's publicity materials assert that man-made global warming is "a lie" and "the biggest scam of modern times." Its original working title was "Apocalypse my arse", but the title The Great Global Warming Swindle was later adopted as an allusion to the 1980 mockumentary The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle about British punk band the Sex Pistols.The UK's Channel 4 premiered the documentary on 8 March 2007. The channel described the film as "a polemic that drew together the well-documented views of a number of respected scientists to reach the same conclusions. This is a controversial film but we feel that it is important that all sides of the debate are aired." According to Hamish Mykura, Channel 4's head of documentaries, the film was commissioned "to present the viewpoint of the small minority of scientists who do not believe global warming is caused by anthropogenic production of carbon dioxide."Although the documentary was welcomed by global warming deniers, it was criticised by scientific organisations and individual scientists (including one of the scientists interviewed in the film and one whose research was used to support the film's claims). The film's critics argued that it had misused and fabricated data, relied on out-of-date research, employed misleading arguments, and misrepresented the position of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Later broadcasts corrected three errors in the original film.

YouView

YouView is a hybrid television platform in the United Kingdom, developed by a partnership of three telecommunications operators and four broadcasters. It was formed from a project originally titled Project Canvas, which was rebranded as YouView in September 2010. The service was due to launch by the end of that year, but was delayed until 4 July 2012. At its launch, YouView's chairman Alan Sugar stated his ambition for the service to replace Freeview devices.

YouView provides access to free-to-air digital terrestrial television (DTT) channels (both DVB-T and DVB-T2 channels in common with the Freeview television platform) and to TV on demand (catch-up TV) services via a 'hybrid' set-top box (STB) purchased by users, connected with both a broadband internet connection and a normal television aerial. No contract is required, and there is no subscription charge. Catch-up and on-demand content is delivered over the internet, which may be chargeable by the Internet service provider (ISP), or subject to limits and fair usage clauses.

BT and TalkTalk have each partnered with YouView, allowing BT subsidiaries BT TV and Plusnet TV, and TalkTalk TV customers to access the service, along with BT's and TalkTalk's own offerings. Both companies provide customers with their own branded YouView set-top box.

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