Media Lifeline: Ofcom - The regulator's first year has gone more smoothly than might have been expected

December 2003: Having announced that it will undertake a fundamental review of UK broadcasting,the Ofcom "super-regulator" launches under its chief executive, Stephen Carter (below), and its chairman, Lord Currie. January 2004: David Connolly, the airtime market adjudicator appointed to oversee Contract Rights Renewal, the mechanism designed to stop ITV abusing its airtime monopoly, sets out his stall. It is widely expected that ITV will at the very least test the boundaries of what it can get away with but, although he is called upon to offer one or two test-case opinions, Connolly is not required to make many formal rulings over the winter months.

April 2004: Ofcom begins publishing consultation documents on the future of public-service broadcasting - and in particular on how it should be funded. Its most controversial idea, which provokes debate across the autumn, is that all channels, not just the BBC, should be able to apply for centrally held public funding if they want to make quality programming.

November 2004: Despite political pressures for Ofcom to become more interventionist - particularly where alcohol ads and food ads targeting children are concerned - it begins transferring responsibility for broadcast advertising content regulation to the ad industry self-regulatory body, the Advertising Standards Authority. It does bow to pressure, however, in tightening up the code where alcohol is concerned.

December 2004: Ofcom looks back over its first year with satisfaction. The broadcasting infrastructure remains intact - and Connolly (below) has not been troubled. Digital switchover emerges as a key issue for the future.

Fast forward - December 2005: What a difference a year makes. A snap ruling outlawing "agency deals"- whereby a media agency will negotiate a joint discount deal for a group of clients - throws the airtime market into turmoil just as ITV begins abusing CRR, with Connolly left increasingly powerless to intervene. Meanwhile, Channel 4's revenue has collapsed and the broadcaster is demanding major public funding.


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