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Ofcom cuts budget by 25%

One in five jobs at U.K. TV watchdog may go

LONDON — Ofcom, the U.K. media regulator, is cutting its budget by more than 25% in real terms over the next four years, a move that will lead to the loss of almost one in five jobs at the watchdog.

The news came as more details emerged of the British government’s comprehensive spending review, announced Wednesday. The review is attempting to cut £81 billion ($128 billion) from Blighty’s public sector.

Of Ofcom’s 870-strong workforce, 170 will be pink-slipped, a cut of 19.5%.

The regulator’s budget is to be trimmed to the tune of 28.2% by 2014-15 as part of proposals announced Thursday.

Ofcom’s CEO Ed Richards told staff: “These are difficult times for everyone in the public sector and it is right that Ofcom plays its part meeting the challenge facing the public finances.

“We also need to re-focus Ofcom in the light of changing markets and technological developments, and of course in respect of the budgetary constraints.

“This is why we have taken the initiative and today set out detailed proposals for both reducing expenditure and achieving greater strategic focus and organizational effectiveness.”

Ofcom was set up as a so-called “converged regulator” by the last Labour government, merging the separate roles hitherto taken by such orgs as the Independent Television Commission, phone watchdog Oftel and the Radio Authority.

Prior to taking power in May, the new British Prime Minister David Cameron had criticized the regulator for being too powerful by virtue of its policy-making role and said in the event of a Conservative administration “Ofcom as we know it will cease to exist.”

But in common with the BBC Trust, the corporation’s sovereign body, Ofcom has survived the first big strategic announcement by the U.K. coalition government, albeit as a smaller organization.

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