Govt ratifies Ofcom launch but stalls on cross-media rules

Ofcom is to be the main focus of the Government's draft

Communications Bill, while media ownership legislation is unlikely to

change for the next two years, it was revealed in the Queen's Speech

this week.

The ratifying of Ofcom, a single communications regulator, has been

welcomed by the advertising and media industries, although there is some

disappointment that the regulatory body is not likely to be formally set

up before 2003.

It had been hoped that the new body would actually come into force much


However, Ian Twinn, the director of public affairs at ISBA, said he was

confident that Ofcom would exist in some form by next year: "It will be

there in shadow form anyway, before it takes over its official role. We

are really pleased that the Government has recognised the need for a

single regulator. There will be a concentration of media experts who

will be serious commentators on any future developments."

The issue of cross-media ownership and allowing greater consolidation

within the media industry through relaxing market share restrictions

remains unresolved. This has created relief among the advertising

industry that the prospect of a Carlton/ Granada merger is unlikely to

happen until at least 2003.