Communications Act 2003

Publication Date:January 01, 2003
 
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Communications Act 2003

2003 CHAPTER 21

An Act to confer functions on the Office of Communications; to make provision about the regulation of the provision of electronic communications networks and services and of the use of the electro-magnetic spectrum; to make provision about the regulation of broadcasting and of the provision of television and radio services; to make provision about mergers involving newspaper and other media enterprises and, in that connection, to amend the Enterprise Act 2002; and for connected purposes.

[17th July 2003]

Be it enacted by the Queen's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:—

1 Functions of OFCOM

Part 1

Functions of OFCOM

Transferred and assigned functions

Transferred and assigned functions

S-1 Functions and general powers of OFCOM

1 Functions and general powers of OFCOM

(1) The Office of Communications (‘OFCOM’) shall have the following functions—

(a) the functions transferred to OFCOM under section 2; and

(b) such other functions as may be conferred on OFCOM by or under any enactment (including this Act)

(2) OFCOM shall also have any functions in relation to telephone numbers that are conferred on them by the law of the Isle of Man or of any of the Channel Islands

(3) OFCOM may do anything which appears to them to be incidental or conducive to the carrying out of their functions, including borrow money

(4) OFCOM are not to borrow money except with the consent of the Secretary of State, or in accordance with a general authorisation given by him

(5) OFCOM's powers under subsection (3) include, in particular—

(a) power to undertake research and development work in connection with any matter in relation to which they have functions

(b) power to promote the carrying out of such research and development by others, or otherwise to arrange for it to be carried out by others;

(c) power to institute and carry on criminal proceedings in England and Wales or Northern Ireland for an offence relating to a matter in relation to which they have functions; and

(d) power, in such cases and in such circumstances as they may think fit, to make payments (where no legal liability arises) to persons adversely affected by the carrying out by OFCOM of any of their functions.

(6) In exercise of their powers under subsection (3), OFCOM must establish and maintain separate offices in each of the following parts of the United Kingdom—

(a) England;

(b) Wales;

(c) Scotland; and

(d) Northern Ireland.

(7) Part 2 of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 (c. 40) (contracting out) is to have effect in relation to the functions conferred on OFCOM by or under any enactment as if—

(a) OFCOM were an office holder within the meaning of that Part; and

(b) a power of OFCOM to make subordinate legislation were excluded from section 69 of that Act to the extent only that it is exercisable by statutory instrument.

(8) In this section ‘telephone numbers’ has the same meaning as in Chapter 1 of Part 2.

S-2 Transfer of functions of pre-commencement regulators

2 Transfer of functions of pre-commencement regulators

(1) As from such date as the Secretary of State may appoint for the coming into force of this section, the functions that are set out in Schedule 1 (functions of the Secretary of State and of the pre-commencement regulators) shall become functions of OFCOM in accordance with that Schedule.

(2) References in any enactment to a person who is a person from whom functions are transferred by virtue of this section are to have effect, so far as necessary for the purposes of the transfers, as references to OFCOM.

(3) The functions of OFCOM are to include the carrying out of the transferred functions, at times after the time when they become functions of OFCOM, in relation to anything occurring before that time.

(4) The provisions of this section have effect subject to—

(a) the modifications made by this Act of the enactments relating to the transferred functions; and

(b) any express transitional or consequential provisions made by or under this Act in relation to those enactments.

General duties in carrying out functions

General duties in carrying out functions

S-3 General duties of OFCOM

3 General duties of OFCOM

(1) It shall be the principal duty of OFCOM, in carrying out their functions—

(a) to further the interests of citizens in relation to communications matters; and

(b) to further the interests of consumers in relevant markets where appropriate by promoting competition

(2) The things which, by virtue of subsection (1), OFCOM are required to secure in the carrying out of their functions include, in particular, each of the following—

(a) the optimal use for wireless telegraphy of the electro-magnetic spectrum;

(b) the availability throughout the United Kingdom of a wide range of electronic communications services;

(c) the availability throughout the United Kingdom of a wide range of television and radio services which (taken as a whole) are both of high quality and calculated to appeal to a variety of tastes and interests;

(d) the maintenance of a sufficient plurality of providers of different television and radio services;

(e) the application, in the case of all television and radio services, of standards that provide adequate protection to members of the public from the inclusion of offensive and harmful material in such services;

(f) the application, in the case of all television and radio services, of standards that provide adequate protection to members of the public and all other persons from both—

(i) unfair treatment in programmes included in such services; and

(ii) unwarranted infringements of privacy resulting from activities carried on for the purposes of such services.

(3) In performing their duties under subsection (1), OFCOM must have regard, in all cases, to—

(a) the principles under which regulatory activities should be transparent, accountable, proportionate, consistent and targeted only at cases in which action is needed; and

(b) any other principles appearing to OFCOM to represent the best regulatory practice.

(4) OFCOM must also have regard, in performing those duties, to such of the following as appear to them to be relevant in the circumstances—

(a) the desirability of promoting the fulfilment of the purposes of public service television broadcasting in the United Kingdom;

(b) the desirability of promoting competition in relevant markets;

(c) the desirability of promoting and facilitating the development and use of effective forms of self-regulation;

(d) the desirability of encouraging investment and innovation in relevant markets;

(e) the desirability of encouraging the availability and use of high speed data transfer services throughout the United Kingdom;

(f) the different needs and interests, so far as the use of the electro-magnetic spectrum for wireless telegraphy is concerned, of all persons who may wish to make use of it;

(g) the need to secure that the application in the case of television and radio services of standards falling within subsection (2)(e) and (f) is in the manner that best guarantees an appropriate level of freedom of expression;

(h) the vulnerability of children and of others whose circumstances appear to OFCOM to put them in need of special protection;

(i) the needs of persons with disabilities, of the elderly and of those on low incomes;

(j) the desirability of preventing crime and disorder;

(k) the opinions of consumers in relevant markets and of members of the public generally;

(l) the different interests of persons in the different parts of the United Kingdom, of the different ethnic communities within the United Kingdom and of persons living in rural and in urban areas;

(m) the extent to which, in the circumstances of the case, the furthering or securing of the matters mentioned in subsections (1) and (2) is reasonably practicable.

(5) In performing their duty under this section of furthering the interests of consumers, OFCOM must have regard, in particular, to the interests of those consumers in respect of choice, price, quality of service and value for money.

(6) Where it appears to OFCOM, in relation to the carrying out of any of the functions mentioned in section 4(1), that any of their general duties conflict with one or more of their duties under sections 4, 24 and 25, priority must be given to their duties under those sections.

(7) Where it appears to OFCOM that any of their general duties conflict with each other in a particular case, they must secure that the conflict is resolved in the manner they think best in the circumstances.

(8) Where OFCOM resolve a conflict in an important case between their duties under paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (1), they must publish a statement setting out—

(a) the nature of the conflict;

(b) the manner in which they have decided to resolve it; and

(c) the reasons for their decision to resolve it in that manner.

(9) Where OFCOM are required to publish a statement under subsection (8), they must—

(a) publish it as soon as possible after making their decision but not while they would (apart from a statutory requirement to publish) be subject to an obligation not to publish a matter that needs to be included in the statement; and

(b) so publish it in such manner as they consider appropriate for bringing it to the attention of the persons who, in OFCOM's opinion, are likely to be affected by the matters to which the decision relates.

(10) Every report under paragraph 12 of the Schedule to the Office of Communications Act 2002 (c. 11) (OFCOM's annual report) for a financial year must contain a summary of the manner in which, in that year, OFCOM resolved conflicts arising in important cases between their general duties.

(11) A case is...

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