Critics have claimed that reforms to Ofcom have removed the media regulator’s independence from the Government.
Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt announced eight key changes that will “return the policy-setting role to the secretary of state, reduce unnecessary expense and avoid duplication”.
This includes giving Hunt the licence to call for public service broadcasting (PSB) and media merger reviews, which currently take place every five and three years respectively, at will.
Damian Tambini, an outgoing member of the Communications Consumer Panel, called the move “one of the gravest assaults on broadcasting freedom I have seen in the UK”.
He claimed the government’s “power grab” would not save money and robbed Ofcom of its independence by handing Hunt “the sword of Damocles” over public service broadcasters. He also suggested the moves suited Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.
He said: “The rules on media mergers, which are the thin line that prevent powerful media owners such as News Corporation constructing an irremovable fortress at the centre of British democracy, can be removed at will by a minister who relies on them for political favours.”
This article appears in issue 257 of Media Digest.