Ofcom chief hits out at Puttnam's Bill initiative

Stephen Carter, the Ofcom chief executive, this week hit out at what he claimed were the misguided efforts of the Labour peer Lord Puttnam to amend the remit of the media watchdog.

Speaking publicly for the first time since his appointment, he accused Puttnam of failing to understand the body's twin roles of protecting citizens and consumers.

His counterblast at the ISBA annual lunch in London follows a Puttnam-led initiative in the House of Lords which led to the passing of an amendment to the Communications Bill calling for Ofcom to put greater effort into representing the interests of "citizens".

Carter said: "Some people are suggesting that Ofcom may disregard its public service responsibilities, with a pure economic or economist's view of the world.

"This characterisation fails to understand the whole thrust of the drafting of the legislation, namely that parity attaches to the twin duties of protecting the citizen and the consumer."

He added: "It also fails to understand the governance and structure of Ofcom, namely that we are a board with a chairman, a chief executive and independent members who will exercise their responsibilities collectively."

The former J. Walter Thompson and ntl chief executive claimed that while Puttnam's amendment had been passed "with the best of intentions", it marked a considerable departure from the roles of the two existing broadcast regulators, the Independent Television Commission and the Radio Authority, which currently work to balance the interests of citizens and consumers.

He also warned about what he claimed was the risk of making "late and undigested changes" to the basic architecture of the Communications Bill.

However, Carter pledged that the ad industry would have an important part to play in Ofcom's statutory review of public service broadcasting.

Ofcom will set out how the review is to be conducted in early autumn.

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