What it means to chair an Ofcom Advisory Committee

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I am moving on to a new position in the US and have therefore, stepped down as Chair of Ofcom’s Advisory Committee for England (ACE) after chairing the committee from 2009.

On the day before my last meeting, on 12 June, I attended a reception at Oxford, wondering what the invited guests shared with each other. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was all about work with organisations like Ofcom.

SHAPING POLICY

The Vice Chancellor thanked his colleagues at Oxford for getting involved in roles such as my own as chair of ACE. It brought home the value that universities place in academics using their expertise in shaping policy and practice as well as more traditional academic pursuits. But it is clearly a two-way street given that I learned so much from my involvement that was of direct relevance to my academic research on how policy and other social factors shape the Internet and its societal implications.

So let me thank my colleagues on ACE and the chairs of the other national advisory committees, who sat with me on the Nations Committee, for sharing their expertise and experience across so many fields of communications.

To a person, they were enormously patient and forgiving with the limits of my own background and expertise, and never hesitated to answer my questions, however naive they might have been. And many thanks to Ofcom staff that have supported the committee over the years, including Graham Howell, Jonathan Pillinger-Cork, David Edwards, and during my early years, Damian Radcliffe. I will keep Ofcom’s gift mug and memories of the committee with me in years to come.

As I leave, let me brag a bit about the impact of ACE within Ofcom and among the Nations. We have identified and championed issues of relevance to England, such as diversity, and helped make them issues of relevance across the nations and regions.

We argued that urban-rural divides were very much an issue for England as well as the other nations, and supported the development of more detailed studies of infrastructures across the UK, including the study of the geography of infrastructures and service availability within cities to discover divides within areas generally considered to be well served.

We also championed the broadening of our focus on consumers to include businesses, particularly small and medium sized enterprises, and citizens, so that issues of access could be seen as central to the vitality of business and industry and the economy as well as to government and democratic institutions.

ADVICE TO OFCOM

Finally, ACE drove the development of this blog, Advice to Ofcom, and an associated twitter account, @AdvicetoOfcom, to provide channels for the advisors to Ofcom to speak with one another and the public.

During my tenure as chair, I’ve seen communication between the Advisory Committees and the Ofcom Board improve dramatically with the formation of the Nations’ Committee, currently chaired by Dame Lynne J. Brindley, who is a member of the Board. In an analogous way, Advice to Ofcom has provided an opportunity to enhance communication with the public.

It has provided a platform for members of the nations to voice their opinions, and views on communication and regulation in a publicly accessible way. Advice to Ofcom is a dramatic departure for some of the committee members, uncomfortable with blogging, but it has begun to find its role as a channel for the nations that will support the increasing transparency and openness of Ofcom in the digital age. With my departure, Philip Schlesinger, Chair of the Advisory Committee for Scotland, will step into the role I provided in supporting the development of Advice to Ofcom.

So many thanks to all of my colleagues at Ofcom and the national advisory committees, and best wishes to the next chair of ACE and the future of ACE and Advice to Ofcom.  

2 Comments

Your departure

As the previous Member for England on the Communications Consumer Panel, I was pleased to join ACE deliberations during several years of your tenure as Chair and valued enormously your leadership and insights. Thanks for all you have done for citizens and consumers in England and best wishes for all you are now going to do back in the USA.

Bill, thanks for sharing your

Bill, thanks for sharing your insights. And thanks for chairing the committee so well. Very best wishes for the future