Oftel and the UK's media regulators will be replaced by a single watchdog to oversee the broadcast, telecoms and new media industries in the UK.
The Communications White Paper, announced by the government yesterday, proposes a super regulatory body, dubbed Ofcom, which will combine the work of organisations including Oftel, the Radio Authority and the Broadcasting Standards Commission.
Chris Smith, the Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, said that the proposals aim to bring a "lighter touch" to media and communications regulation while continuing to put the consumer first. The creation of Ofcom will guarantee a better deal for consumers and will put an end to confusing regulation, he said.
"We now live and work in a new world where TV, telecoms and the internet are no longer separate. I believe that this White Paper signals a clear way forward. It puts the consumer first and gives the industry the responsible freedom it needs to continue to provide top quality services," explained Smith.
Oftel has come under repeated fire from the telecoms industry for being complacent in its approach to introducing competition into BT's local network. According to the government, the new proposals will ensure that the telecoms sector has effective competition and regulatory stability.
The watchdog said it is looking forward to playing a constructive role in the new process and claimed that it argued strongly for the creation of a single communications regulator. Director general David Edmonds said: "Clear and consistent regulation, overseen by Ofcom, will bring greater choice for consumers through increased competition."
"There is a need for consumer input into policy making and a new balance between sector-specific regulation, competition law and self and co-regulation. I am delighted the White Paper is based upon these principles," he added.
BT said such a framework is essential for the future of ebusiness and e-government. Ian Morfett, director of regulatory affairs at the telco, said: "The world has changed beyond recognition since the pre-internet, pre-broadband days when the old regulatory structures were set up. A converged and consistent framework must be the correct approach for a converging set of industries."
The government has invited comments on the White Paper and said it will work with existing regulators to "ensure a smooth transition to the new regulatory regime".
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