Ofcom is the UK's communications regulator. It regulates the TV and radio sectors, fixed line telecoms, mobiles, postal services, plus the airwaves over which wireless devices operate. Ofcom makes sure that people in the UK get the best from their communications services and are protected from scams and sharp practices, while ensuring that competition can thrive.
Ofcom operates under the Communications Act 2003. This detailed Act of Parliament spells out exactly what Ofcom should do. Ofcom can do no more or no less than is spelt out in the Act.
The Act says that Ofcom's general duties should be to further the interests of citizens and of consumers. Meeting these two duties is at the heart of everything Ofcom does.
Accountable to Parliament, Ofcom is involved in advising and setting some of the more technical aspects of regulation, implementing and enforcing the law.
Ofcom is funded by fees from industry for regulating broadcasting and communications networks, and grant-in-aid from the Government.
Role of the regulator
Ofcom's main legal duties are to ensure:
- the UK has a wide range of electronic communications services, including high-speed services such as broadband;
- a wide range of high-quality television and radio programmes are provided, appealing to a range of tastes and interests;
- television and radio services are provided by a range of different organisations;
- people who watch television and listen to the radio are protected from harmful or offensive material;
- people are protected from being treated unfairly in television and radio programmes, and from having their privacy invaded; and
- a universal postal service is provided in the UK - this means a six days a week, universally priced delivery and collection service across the country; and
- the radio spectrum (the airwaves used by everyone from taxi firms and boat owners, to mobile-phone companies and broadcasters) is used in the most effective way.
What the regulator does not do
Ofcom is not responsible for regulating:
- disputes between you and your telecoms provider;
- premium-rate services, including mobile-phone text services and ringtones;
- the content of television and radio adverts;
- complaints about accuracy in BBC programmes;
- the BBC TV licence fee; or
- post offices; or
- newspapers and magazines.