What was the 2003 Communication Act? What did it effect?

When Tony Blair’s Labour government legislated the Communications Act 2003 in the United Kingdom Parliament the American film director Oliver Stone paraphrased Joseph Goebbels when he said, “the bigger the lie, the more people will believe it.” In opening up the UK media industry to foreign predators Great Britain lost one of the reasons it used to be Great; it’s independence. It still had the BBC but other TV channels and radio stations, while privately run, were owned by the British or Europeans. This gave them some impartiality that the US media sadly lacks. Stone’s point was very poignant but perhaps rather overstated. At the time he had an axe to grind as his documentary about Fidel Castro had been pulled in the United States allegedly because of pressure from the US government. An independent media is something that the people of country need and fortunately for the British people this is something that they still have. While Rupert Murdoch has quite a stranglehold over British media, as well as in many other countries, the British media is still diverse and still has the crown jewels in the BBC, which is owned by the the license payer; UK residents.

What did the 2003 Communications Act change?

The Communications Act 2003, as well as opening up TV and radio to foreign ownership, introduced news laws relating to the misuse of WI-FI connections, namely, it became illegal to use someone else’s WI-FI without intending to pay for it. This was done in an effort to stop the defrauding of internet service providers.

Using the internet to send malicious communications became illegal if that message was, ‘grossly offensive or indecent’. In 2012 this was amended to clarify that only messages that were, ‘threats of violence, harassment(such as stalking) or those that were breaches of a court order would be prosecuted’.

A large part of the legislation was bringing together the previous regulators of the media into one body, namely OFCOM, or the Office of Communications. The previous regulators of the different parts of the media industry were brought together mainly as a cost saving measure but also because there was a lot of overlap.

Did it impact on anything else?

In terms of telecoms, the legislation took meaningful action of nuisance calls – meaning it became a punishable offence to “persistently make use of a public electronic communications network for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety”. In short, this meant that both businesses and individuals had to be more aware of the impact that their phone usage may have on the person at the other end of the line. Since then, Ofcom have taken steps to tighten the rules even further, and the organisation’s powers have grown further to include powers over certain number ranges themselves – including the recently introduced 03 number range. If you are looking to purchase an 0333 number, we will be able to help.

What was the act’s legacy?

At the time there was much scorn poured over the bill by the British media, and the House of Lords put it’s foot in to try to stop Rupert Murdoch from taking over Channel 5, but the bill has tested time well and overall the Communications Act 2003 has been beneficial to consumers as the providers are more accountable and any consumer who misuses these services is also more accountable which benefits the large majority of consumers who use these services in the way that they were intended for. Although laws regarding a hot topic of the day were brought in by the government in 2015 about so called ‘revenge porn’ but these were legislated under other acts of parliament, in reality these despicable acts can only occur because of the use of the internet which shows how dis-jointed legislation can be.

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