Ofcom operates under a number of Acts of Parliament, including in particular the Communications Act 2003. Ofcom must act within the powers and duties set for it by Parliament in legislation.
The Communications Act says that Ofcom’s principal duty is to further the interests of citizens and of consumers, where appropriate by promoting competition. Meeting this duty is at the heart of everything we do.
Accountable to Parliament, we set and enforce regulatory rules for the sectors for which we have responsibility. We also have powers to enforce competition law in those sectors, alongside the Competition and Markets Authority.
Ofcom is funded by fees from industry for regulating broadcasting and communications networks, and grant-in-aid from the Government.
Ofcom was established as a body corporate by the Office of Communications Act 2002. Ofcom operates under a number of Acts of Parliament and other legislation. These include the Communications Act 2003, the Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006, the Broadcasting Acts 1990 and 1996, the Digital Economy Act 2010 and the Postal Services Act 2011. Ofcom is the regulator for the UK communications industries, with responsibilities across television, radio, on demand, postal, telecommunications and wireless communications services.
Ofcom regulates the BBC in accordance with the BBC Charter and Agreement. The Charter and Agreement set out Ofcom’s functions to regulate BBC content standards and performance, and the effect on competition of the BBC’s activities.
Ofcom’s main statutory duties
Under the Communications Act 2003:
Section 3(1): "It shall be the principal duty of Ofcom, in carrying out their functions;
(a) to further the interests of citizens in relation to communications matters; and
(b) to further the interests of consumers in relevant markets, where appropriate by promoting competition”
Ofcom’s role includes securing:
- the optimal use for wireless telegraphy of the electro-magnetic spectrum;
- that a wide range of electronic communications services is available throughout the UK;
- that a wide range of TV and radio services of high quality and wide appeal are available throughout the UK;
- that sufficient plurality in the providers of different television and radio services is maintained;
- the application of standards that provide adequate protection for members of the public and others against offensive or harmful material in television and radio;
- the application of standards that provide adequate protection for members of the public and others against unfair treatment in television and radio programmes and unwarranted infringements of privacy resulting from activities carried on for the purposes of such television and radio services; and
- the application of standards that provide adequate protection for viewers of video on demand services from harmful content.
Under the Postal Services Act 2011:
Section 29(1): "Ofcom must carry out their functions in relation to postal services in a way that they consider will secure the provision of a universal postal service.”
Ofcom’s regulatory principles
- Ofcom will regulate with a clearly articulated and publicly reviewed annual plan, with stated policy objectives.
- Ofcom will intervene where there is a specific statutory duty to work towards a public policy goal which markets alone cannot achieve.
- Ofcom will operate with a bias against intervention, but with a willingness to intervene firmly, promptly and effectively where required.
- Ofcom will strive to ensure its interventions will be evidence-based, proportionate, consistent, accountable and transparent in both deliberation and outcome.
- Ofcom will always seek the least intrusive regulatory mechanisms to achieve its policy objectives.
- Ofcom will research markets constantly and will aim to remain at the forefront of technological understanding.
Ofcom will consult widely with all relevant stakeholders and assess the impact of regulatory action before imposing regulation upon a market.
Office of Communications Act 2002