PERSPECTIVE: Ofcom's chief brings good mix of attitude and real experience

Quite possibly, Stephen Carter has had more juicy job interviews in the past six months than most of us have in our entire careers. So it was no doubt a relief to all other senior execs with itchy feet when Carter was finally plucked off the market this week and signed up as the chief executive of Ofcom.

And I suspect that Carter was pretty damn keen to take up the £350,000 a year challenge of running this regulatory Frankenstein's monster. The Ofcom job is not necessarily the biggest prize Carter's tilted at since tarting himself around boardrooms, but it's sure to prove a relief after the disastrous ntl.

Though some might see the Ofcom job as the salaried equivalent of red-hot needles down the fingernails, it is at least a challenge Carter's muscles are already taut for after the headaches of bankruptcy and redundancies at ntl. No wonder Carter has described his new job as "irresistible".

So if the Ofcom task is as good as a rest for Carter, what will Carter's appointment mean for all of those companies likely to find themselves in Ofcom's orbit?

For all the media and telecoms companies that will now find Carter and his team regulating everything from media mergers and radio spectrum allocation to public service remits and sex on the telly, he is a welcome alternative to the backroom bureaucrats who characterise this dusty, fusty world.

Ofcom is being built on a spirit of co-operation and co-regulation with the industry and Carter has real experience of the business issues facing advertising, broadcasting and telecoms.

His concerns over the creeping commercialisation at a BBC that sits outside the full scope of Ofcom are already well known. And Carter last year warned that BSkyB and BT, along with the BBC, would require careful watching to ensure that a competitive market was maintained and Britain keeps up the pace on digital and broadband penetration. So his arrival at the super-regulator is good news for advertisers keen to see healthy competition among media owners a priority.

For the advertising industry, Carter's appointment could well ensure the smooth transition to greater self-regulation. Carter will, of course, understand the issues and limitations of self-regulation for TV advertising and the industry can hopefully look forward to a lighter touch for TV and other media sectors.

As for the traditionally reserved atmospheres of the old regulatory bodies that spawned Ofcom, well, he should be right at home. His thoughtful intelligence has a dour tinge, say those who have worked with him, and Carter has the steely edge required to tough out issues such as the BBC's charter renewal and BT's dominance in the telecoms market. Expect the words "get Carter" to echo round boardrooms in an entirely new context now.

- Caroline Marshall is on maternity leave.


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