Cruickshank opposes linking regulators

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The Independent Online
Don Cruickshank, the telecoms regulator, is to oppose the creation of a merged broadcasting and telecoms "super-regulator," the first time he has taken a public position on the issue.

In one of his last moves before leaving the post as head of Oftel, the telecoms watchdog, at the end of March, Mr Cruickshank is to submit evidence on the regulation of the broadcasting industry to a Commons select committee. He has previously avoided direct intervention on the issue of whether Oftel should be merged with the Independent Television Commission (ITC).

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee will this week begin a wide-ranging investigation into the broadcasting industry. Mr Cruickshank, who decided not to seek another five-year term at the helm of Oftel, will tell MPs that the current regime works well, despite concerns that the delivery systems for broadcasting and telephony increasingly overlap as digital TV groups prepare to launch services.

Mr Cruickshank is expected to argue that both the ITC and Oftel should continue to conduct parallel investigations into issues such as the electronic programme guides used to navigate viewers through the digital TV maze.

He is also likely to warn that the concept of a super-regulator, dubbed "Ofcom," could be dangerous, because it would combine the role of economic regulator with the watchdog power to monitor issues such as taste and decency.

In his recent submission to the Government's review of utility regulation, Mr Cruickshank said that other social policy issues, including access to technology for poorer homes, should be left to ministers.

Gerald Kaufman, chairman of the committee, said MPs would begin the probe with a "technical briefing" from the ITC on Thursday.

- Chris Godsmark