Ofcom head Ed Richards throws in the towel

Ed Richards is to stand down as head of Ofcom after 11 years of service at the regulator.

Ofcom head Ed Richards throws in the towel

Richards’ involvement with the organisation stretches back to before it was even founded, when he helped shape the Communications Act 2003, from which Ofcom was born.

For the first three years of its existence, he served as COO, before taking on the top job in 2006.

In a statement, Richards said: “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.”

“It has been a privilege to lead Ofcom during such an exciting … period in the evolution of the UK’s communications sector,” he added.

Richards will continue to lead the organisation in operational, financial, economic, competition and policy matters until December. After his official departure he will still continue be “available” to the organisation for the next 12 months, although the board is hoping to have found a replacement by early 2015.

It’s not known what he will do after the end of this lengthy notice period, though, as he’s not allowed to make job inquiries before he leaves.

Even after he’s officially gone, he will still have to run possible employment opportunities past Ofcom chair Patricia Hodgson for a few months.

Of Richards, Hodgson said: “Ed has been an outstanding chief executive. Under his leadership, Ofcom has helped to deliver superfast broadband, 4G … and sustainable public service broadcasting in the UK.”

A mixed record

Richards’ time as the helm of Ofcom hasn’t been all smooth sailing, however.

In 2011, he suggested that only families with teenagers were interested in super-fast fibre broadband.

He was also criticised in 2010 for failing to take prompt action to prevent ISPs from advertising internet speeds that were beyond most people’s reach. Ofcom finally cracked down on the practice later that year.

Richards also applied to replace Mark Thompson as director general of the BBC in 2012. Ultimately he lost out to George Entwistle who resigned just seven weeks later, following the Jimmy Savile and Lord McAlpine scandals, but Richards’ ability to continue as head of the regulator was questioned by some. Mark Lawson of The Guardian [a herf=”http://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/tvandradioblog/2012/jul/04/george-entwistle-balancing-act-bbc” title=”The Guardian” follow=”no”]said at the time that[/a] “logic suggests … Richards will have to move on”, with Adam Boulton, political editor of Sky News, saying he was “compromised” and “should consider his position”.

Nevertheless, he continued on for a further two years and Hodgson said he is leaving “an impressive legacy” at Ofcom and thanked him for his “enormous contribution”.

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