A UK communications super watchdog unveiled on Tuesday could take over some of the activities of film certification body the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) as part of far-reaching regulatory changes.
Under one scenario proposed by the government, the new OFCOM regulatory body could take over video classification, currently under the BBFC's auspices. Alternative proposals include the BBFC as a whole becoming an agent of OFCOM or - the BBFC's preferred scenario - that it is left untouched.
The BBFC is expected to submit its arguments to the government by February. A spokesperson for the BBFC argued that, compared to TV, film and video regulation are "in the same field" and should stay under the remit of the same body. She added that bringing video activities under the auspices of a single body encompassing TV and radio could endanger diversity.
"A single regulatory organisation may create a situation which reduces diversity and increases common uniformity," she said. "We don't see a need for change."
Although the BBFC's fate was left undecided, the government stated that OFCOM will swallow up a mass of other regulators including the Broadcasting Standards Commission, the Independent Television Commission, Oftel, the Radio Authority and the Radiocommunications Agency. OFCOM will be armed with concurrent powers to industry watchdog the Office of Fair Trading and have additional clout in specific sectors.
The creation of OFCOM comes as the government, aiming to protect consumers but also encourage industry growth, lifted blocks to a single company running commercial TV network ITV. Limits on audience share were scrapped along with rules forbidding one company owning both London TV licences.
Public broadcaster the BBC emerged largely untouched by the proposals. The government also ruled out privatising Channel 4 but re-affirmed the broadcaster's remit to be innovative and promote cultural diversity.
OFCOM's three-tier regulatory system will include general rules such as those covering news services, plus public service regulations including quotas for independent and regional programming. The third tier, focusing on quality of output, is intended to be self-regulatory.
Regulations covering cross-media and radio ownership were left largely untouched, although the government is to consider changes.