Ofcom confirms priorities for 2018/19

28 March 2018

Ofcom has today published its 2018/19 Annual Plan, setting out the planned programme of work for the next financial year.

Ofcom aims to make communications markets work for everyone. We do this by promoting competition; securing standards and improving quality; and protecting consumers from harm.

Major work in our 2018/19 work programme includes:

  • working with industry to support investment in ultrafast fibre broadband networks;
  • monitoring and reporting on progress around the legal separation of Openreach from BT;
  • undertaking the first annual report on the BBC’s compliance with our requirements;
  • preparing for future releases of airwaves to help increase the capacity and quality of UK mobile networks; and
  • extending availability of broadband by starting implementation of a universal service obligation.

Ofcom’s Annual Plan follows consultation with a wide range of stakeholders and the public. It highlights all our major work areas in the financial year 2018/19, including:

Promoting competition to benefit people and businesses

Ofcom supports investment in network infrastructure to provide faster, more reliable broadband and contribute to the UK’s future economy. We will continue to work with industry to promote investment by a range of companies in full-fibre and mobile infrastructure. Following our Wholesale Local Access market review, we will implement pricing measures designed to ensure affordable superfast broadband, while protecting incentives for companies to invest in ultrafast networks.

We will actively measure, monitor and report on progress related to the legal separation of Openreach from BT. In particular, we will assess how far Openreach is improving its network and delivering better quality of service.

Our auction to release more airwaves for mobile services is under way. This will help meet growing consumer demand for mobile broadband.

In broadcasting, we have started our first BBC competition assessment, looking at plans to launch a new BBC digital television channel for audiences in Scotland.

Securing standards and improving quality

At the end of 2017, the UK Government announced that it would legislate for a broadband universal service obligation (USO), giving UK people a legal right to request a 10 Mbit/s broadband connection. We will consult on this service in the coming financial year, including how it will be funded and managed.

As part of our work to improve mobile phone reception across the country, we are consulting on proposed obligations to increase coverage as part of the auction of 700 MHz spectrum, which we expect to take place next year.

We will publish our first annual report on the BBC’s performance, as well as a study on how well different audiences are represented and portrayed on BBC television. The review will ask what viewers and expect from the BBC, and whether it adequately reflects the lives of people across the UK.

We will review the quantity, range and quality of children’s television programmes available to younger people, and consider setting criteria for children’s content.

To promote diversity and equal opportunities in broadcasting, we will publish our first report measuring the diversity of the UK’s radio industry, and a second report on diversity in UK television. These will provide a comprehensive picture of opportunity, diversity and inclusion in employment for individual broadcasters, and for the industry as a whole.

We will report on the prominence of public-service television channels on electronic programme guides (EPG), and review our rules in this area.

Protecting consumers from harm

We will continue to consider all complaints we receive against our Broadcasting Code, to ensure good standards on TV and radio.

We enforce the rules that we place on communications providers, as well as general consumer law, to ensure people are fairly treated – including the most vulnerable in society. We will continue to address harmful practices swiftly and firmly, which can involve fining companies when they break our rules.

We will also ensure that networks operators comply with our guidance in building networks that are secure and resilient. This will include preparing for, and implementing, requirements proposed under the Network and Information Security Directive; and supporting the Government’s work on cyber security.

We will review the cost of calling directory enquiries services, to ensure that prices are transparent and fair to consumers.

Working with industry and partners, such as the Information Commissioner’s Office, we will continue to monitor and block nuisance calls at a network level, so they do not reach consumers or cause harm to vulnerable people.

Delivering for the whole UK

Ofcom regulates for the whole UK, working with national and local stakeholders from our offices in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and working closely with Ofcom’s four National Advisory Committees.

Further devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland over recent years has been reflected in changes to Ofcom’s governance. The administrations in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast are now each responsible for appointing a new Ofcom Board member in consultation with the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. The Scotland member of the Ofcom Board was appointed in February 2018, and Wales and Northern Ireland are expected to follow in due course.

We are implementing a new Memorandum of Understanding with the Scottish and UK Governments and Scottish Parliament. Similar memoranda are expected to be agreed with the administrations in Wales and Northern Ireland, with implementation through 2018/19 and beyond.

As the UK continues the process of leaving the European Union, we will continue to engage with European institutions, other EU regulators and UK Government to ensure proposed changes to regulations under the Electronic Communications Framework and Audiovisual Media Services Directive meet UK consumers’ needs.

We are also providing advice to the UK Government on the potential effects of Brexit on the sectors we regulate, and how to ensure continued effective regulation throughout the process.

Ensuring value for money

Following the passage of the Digital Economy Act in April 2017, Ofcom is now funded entirely through industry fees and charges. This helps to underline our independence.

Ofcom is focused on delivering continued value for money. In recent years we have delivered like-for-like, real-terms budget reductions.

Our budget for 2018/19 is £124.2m. The increase includes capacity for additional work recently requested by Government to implement a broadband universal service obligation and cybersecurity. Excluding these additional duties, our budget for the coming financial year represents a real-terms reduction compared to 2017/18.