The Office of Communications, commonly known as Ofcom, is the government-approved regulatory and competition authority for the broadcasting, telecommunications and postal industries of the United Kingdom.
The Office of Communications (Welsh: Y Swyddfa Gyfathrebiadau), commonly known as Ofcom, is the government-approved regulatory and competition authority for the broadcasting, telecommunications and postal industries of the United Kingdom. Ofcom was initially established by the Office of Communications Act 2002 and received its full authority from the Communications Act 2003. Ofcom has wide-ranging powers across the television, radio, internet, telecoms and postal sectors. It has a statutory duty to represent the interests of citizens and consumers by promoting competition and protecting the public from what might be considered harmful or offensive material. Some of the main areas Ofcom presides over are licensing, research, codes and policies, complaints, competition and protecting the radio spectrum from abuse.
Ofcom makes extensive use of consultations with industry and the public to help it make decisions based upon the evidence presented. Consultation processes begin with publishing documents on its website, asking for views and responses. If the document is perceived to be long and complicated, a plain English summary is usually published as well. A period of ten weeks is allowed for interested persons, companies or organisations to send in their responses to documents.
After this consultation period, Ofcom publishes the responses on their website (excluding any personal or confidential information). When the consultation period has elapsed, Ofcom will prepare a summary of the responses received, and will use this information as a basis for their decisions.
As the regulatory body for media broadcasts, part of Ofcom's duties are to examine specific complaints by viewers or listeners about programmes broadcast on channels that it has licensed. It does not oversee unlicensed channels broadcast to UK viewers. When Ofcom receives a complaint, it asks the broadcaster for a copy of the programme, it then examines the programme content to see if it is in breach of the broadcasting code. Ofcom requests response from the broadcaster to the complaint. On the basis of this response, Ofcom will mark the complaint as either "upheld" or "not upheld", or alternatively simply "resolved".
Ofcom is responsible for the management, regulation, assignment and licensing of the electromagnetic spectrum in the UK, and licenses portions of it for use in TV and radio broadcasts, mobile phone transmissions, private communications networks, and so on. The process of licensing varies depending on the type of usage required. Some licences simply have to be applied and paid for, other commercial licences are subject to a bidding process. Most of the procedures in place have been inherited from the systems used by the previous regulators. However, Ofcom may change some of these processes in future.
Ofcom protects the radio spectrum in a number of ways:
Working within International organisations (ITU, CEPT and BEREC).
Licencing UK controlled commercial radio spectrum; The Ministry of Defence controls its own spectrum. Within the international frame work for frequency use; Ofcom liaises through the UK Government to produce the UKFAT (UK Frequency Allocation Table). The current table was produced in 2010. Investigate and, when necessary, carry out enforcement activities to clear interference or illegal use from the spectrum. Until June 2010 Ofcom investigated all interference cases within the UK. However Radio and Television Broadcast interference reporting has reverted to the BBC. However commercial and spectrum licence holders report to Ofcom and in all cases Illegal/Pirate Radio operations are also reported to Ofcom.
In October 2010 the UK Government announced plans for Ofcom to inherit the functions of Postcomm as part of a wider set of public service austerity measures. Following the Postal Services Act 2011 regulatory responsibility for postal services transferred to Ofcom on 1 October 2011, with its primary duty to maintain the UK 6-day a week universal postal service.
Mobile phone database
Ofcom maintains an online database, called "Sitefinder", to which national mobile network operators provide information about the location and operating characteristics of individual mobile phone base stations (or masts). This voluntary scheme was recommended in the "Stewart Report" to the Government in 2000.