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Ofcom chief executive advocates new regulatory regime covering all media

By Hamish Mackay

January 26, 2012 | 3 min read

The chief executive of Ofcom, Ed Richards, has advocated a new regulatory regime covering all media, which would span TV, internet video services and the digital publishing activities of magazines and newspapers.

The Guardian reports that Richard, speaking at the Oxford Media Convention yesterday, contended that the idea of a common set of principles and standards across media was "not as far-fetched" as some might think, although he said that Ofcom, which regulates broadcasting, was not calling for the creation of a "super regulator".

The Guardian quotes Richard as saying: "The Ofcom broadcasting code is remarkably close to the BBC's editorial guidelines [and] the Press Complaints Commission code and the Ofcom code share many of the same objectives, principles and indeed requirements."

Richards argued that there is an expectation among consumers for "TV-like" services, including online catch-up and video-on-demand offerings such as the BBC iPlayer, to be subject to similar regulations as traditional TV channels and content.

He said that as digital technology advances the publishing activity of the press also meant there was an argument for a "coherent overall approach" to digital media regulation.

"For the avoidance of doubt, we do not think that Ofcom should regulate the press. Over time, and quite quickly in some cases, the difference between 'video on demand' content and that of increasingly video-rich digital 'newspapers' may well diminish. We might be able to offer some assistance from what we have found to be necessary for regulation to be effective."

The Guardian report says that Richards argued that there is a "degree of commonality" between different forms of media that could provide the basis for an over-arching regulatory system in areas such as accuracy, privacy, protecting vulnerable people and crime.

"A set of core principles could be established between the regulators that emerge from the current debate," he is quoted as saying .They might aim to articulate the minimum standards which we would like to see in the UK."

Richards claimed that there is a "strength in diversity and plurality" of multiple regulatory bodies.

"The broadcast licensing approach to regulation is not the right one for the press, in its physical or digital form," he said. "We should strive to preserve the spirit of the open internet … it is also recognition of what is practical.

"This is emphatically not an argument for a single super regulator. Our system does not operate like that today and nor do we believe that it should it in the future."


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