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Ofcom was launched in December 2003 as a new “super-regulator” intended to oversee media channels that were rapidly converging through digital transmission.

It replaced a number of existing authorities, taking on duties previously the responsibility of five different regulators, including:

  • the Broadcasting Standards Commission
  • the Independent Television Commission
  • the Office of Telecommunications (Oftel)
  • the Radio Authority
  • the Radiocommunications Agency

In the years since, it has not been entirely free from controversy. In 2009, for instance, the then opposition leader, David Cameron, promised that under a Conservative Government, Ofcom in its present format would cease to exist, with much of its function and its policy-making role handed back to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

This did not happen. After some initial slight curtailment, Ofcom gained responsibility for the postal services industry in 2011; for the regulation of video on demand in 2016 (from ATVOD) and for the BBC (in 2017).

In that year, Ofcom also gained powers in respect of the minimum broadband speed provided by Internet service providers. Its role in regulating ISP’s has been massively extended (to content and moderation practices) with the passing of the Online Safety Bill 2023.