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Richards stands down as Ofcom Chief

October 2, 2014

By Colin Mann

EdRichardsPhotoEd Richards, Chief Executive of UK comms regulator Ofcom, is to stand down from the role at the end of December 2014. He will continue to lead on all operational, financial, economic, competition and policy matters until that date.

Patricia Hodgson, Ofcom Chairman, said Richards had been an “outstanding” Chief Executive. “Under his leadership, Ofcom has helped to deliver superfast broadband, 4G, lower prices, innovation, competition, and sustainable public service broadcasting in the UK. He leaves an impressive legacy. On behalf of the Board I would like to thank him for his enormous contribution,” she stated.

Richards said it had been a privilege to lead Ofcom during such an exciting and dynamic period in the evolution of the UK’s communications sector. “It is never easy leaving a job that you enjoy greatly but I have always felt that once I had completed eight years as Chief Executive this would be the right time to move on.”

Richards joined the Ofcom Board in March 2003. In July 2005, he was promoted to Chief Operating Officer and became Chief Executive in October 2006.

An executive search process to appoint a replacement is under way, led by Zygos Partnership. The post will shortly be advertised nationally.

The role is a public appointment made by the Ofcom Board, involving an independent assessor and subject to approval by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. Ofcom seeks to complete the recruitment process early in 2015.

Matthew Howett, Practice Leader at global technology research and advisory firm Ovum, says that following Richard’s tenure, the UK now boasts some of the lowest prices for telecommunications services in Europe, together with 4G and fibre at speeds and availability levels far greater than anyone could have anticipated just a few years ago.

“Nevertheless, Richards is likely to remain frustrated with the lack of progress in two particular areas. The first is the ongoing threat of litigation that has dogged the sector which has been costly both in terms of legal fees and also the time Ofcom has had to dedicate to defending its decisions,” suggests Howett.

“The second is around pay-TV. Average spending among UK households has hardly fallen in the past 10 years, with some consumers even having seen real-term price increases.  While there has been innovation (HD, 3D, online services, and so on), the headline here is less positive than for Ofcom’s other achievements over the past decade,” he adds

“Whoever replaces Ed Richards has their work cut out over the next few years. With the looming BBC licence fee renewal, concerns around Premier League TV pricing, the on-going debate about the appropriate regulation of fibre, and a new EU Commission to deal with, it’s going to be a turbulent induction process,” he warns.

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