Ofcom has today published its 2019/20 Annual Plan, setting out our programme of work for the next financial year.
Ofcom’s mission is to make communications work for everyone.
To help achieve this our priorities for 2019/20 include:
- Better broadband and mobile – wherever you are;
- Fairness for customers;
- Supporting UK broadcasting; and
- Raising awareness of online harms.
The Annual Plan follows consultation with a wide range of stakeholders and the public, and feedback from events which took place in all four UK nations. It contains all our planned projects for the coming financial year.
Better broadband and mobile – wherever you are
Being connected – whether at home, at work, or on the move – is increasingly essential to modern life. Our priority is to help ensure that everyone, across all parts of the UK, can enjoy the benefits of better mobile phone and broadband services.
During the next financial year we will help those who can’t get decent broadband, by designating one or more companies to provide the Government’s planned universal broadband service. We will continue our work to support long-term investment in fibre networks by opening up accessto BT’s network of underground ducts and telegraph poles, making it cheaper, quicker and easier for its rivals to build their own networks.
We want to see rural communities getting the kind of mobile coverage that people expect in towns and cities. To help achieve this, we will release more airwaves through an auction, which can be used to boost mobile reception in rural areas.
We will continue to prepare for the launch of 5G, the next generation of mobile services, ensuring our regulation helps foster innovation in 5G and supports companies as they test new services.
Fairness for customers
Following a range of work to ensure that broadband, phone and TV customers are treated fairly, we will continue to stand up for consumers. We will prioritise work to ensure fairer, more transparent pricing, in particular for those who pay for their handsets bundled with airtime, or those who pay more because of their contract status.
We will also finalise our plans for companies to tell customers about their best available broadband, landline, mobile or pay-TV deal when their contracts are coming to an end, and every year after that if they don’t change their deal.
Additionally, from April, we will strengthen the Communications Consumer Panel, the independent statutory voice of the consumer in the telecoms sector, increasing its budget by 50%. This will enable it to carry out a broader programme of consumer advocacy work.
Supporting UK broadcasting
We want UK broadcasters to continue to thrive and deliver high-quality programmes for viewers and listeners. Our work here will include an in-depth review of the health of public service broadcasting over the past five years. Equally, we will look forward, considering important policy questions amid changes in technology, competition and audience behaviour. This will include making sure public-service channels remain easy for people to find.
We will publish our decision on our plans to strengthen our requirements for regional TV productions, and report the findings from our review of the BBC’s news and current affairs output. We will also consider swiftly any material changes to the BBC’s public service and commercial activities.
Raising awareness of online harms
Ofcom’s job is to keep audiences safe and protected, irrespective of the screen they watch or the device they hold. We have duties to promote media literacy, which includes helping to improve people’s critical understanding of the online world, and we are expanding our work in this area under our Making Sense of Media programme.
This will include new research to develop a detailed understanding of specific harms, to raise awareness of them and inform discussions about how these might be addressed. We will also work closely with other regulators, at home and abroad, to share experiences and best practice.
Other important priorities
Our work plan includes a number of other priorities for the coming financial year.
We will continue to support consumers and industry through the Brexit process and ensure we are prepared for a range of potential outcomes.
We will continue to work closely with UK Government and the National Cyber Security Centre, to ensure the communications networks that people and businesses rely on remain resilient. This will include conducting intelligence-led threat testing and, where there are weaknesses, working with industry to deliver improvements.
Ofcom has set itself stretching targets for diversity and inclusion among our workforce, and we will continue to report on our progress in this area. We will also continue to report annually on the diversity of people working in the television and radio industries, and to challenge broadcasters to maintain their momentum in tackling under-representation.
Value for money
Ofcom works hard to deliver value for money. Our budget for 2019/20 is £124.2m, the same as 2018/19. This includes our responsibilities for regulating the BBC, delivering on the broadband universal service, and cybersecurity.
We will continue to reduce our like-for-like budget, in real terms, wherever we can.