Ofcom puts spectrum high on priority plan

Ofcom has published its nine-point priority plan detailing the UK media and telecommunications regulator's areas of focus to the end of 2007. High on the priority list is the release of spectrum and spectrum trading. Ofcom confirmed it will make more spectrum available for DAB digital radio, and will continue to explore how spectrum liberated from the switching off of analogue television signals from 2008 might be used in future.

Ofcom said it would also examine how new methods of delivering internet and media content are creating opportunities for innovation. "This will involve considering: the potential benefits for citizens and consumers; the implications for regulation; and how to ensure appropriate protection for children."

The regulator will look in detail at the development of next-generation telecommunications networks—such as BT's 21st Century Network—examining the extent to which new networks will increase the availability of higher-speed broadband services.

Ofcom will conduct a financial review of Channel 4 and further develop its proposal for a public service publisher, a new publicly financed provider of public service broadcasting delivering services on several digital platforms. Ofcom will conclude its work on the television production sector, and carry out further research on local TV. "We will also consider how news content is likely to be produced and consumed in the future," said the regulator.

On digital switchover Ofcom said it would work with Digital UK, the industry-funded body charged with coordinating the Government's 2008 to 2012 region-by-region timetable, and the Government "to ensure that vulnerable consumers, including older people, receive the necessary support prior to digital TV switchover".

In a joint statement accompanying the annual plan, Ofcom chairman Lord Currie and CEO Stephen Carter said it reflected the "rapidly-evolving developments in the communications sector, and changing consumer attitudes and preferences".

The statement continued: "The nation is embracing digital in all its forms and with enthusiasm. There are now over 10m broadband connections, digital TV is in more than two-thirds of homes and sales of DAB digital radio sets are approaching the 3m mark. In mobile, 3G is taking off, with more than 4m users; and there is a growing range of televisual content being delivered, on demand and streamed, over an increasing number of platforms and devices, fixed and mobile, creating new media opportunities for Britain's creative community."

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