Skip to content

Who is a fit and proper person?

September 22, 2011

Over at the Inforrm blog, there is a great piece on the ‘fit and proper’ ownership test in the Ofcom code. It outlines that in many areas of UK regulation, like pensions and HM Revenue and Customs, there also exists a ‘fit and proper person test’. Like the Ofcom test, all are without definition. The test has certainly come to the fore of the argument over phone hacking lately, and it would be interesting to see if it is ever used in a proper argument levelled at News Corp. Is it a real test? Or a hangover from the competition regulation of the 1980’s?


It reminded me of an article I read in Private Eye over a year ago when Richard Desmond had tabled a bid for Channel 5. Eye mentioned that the fit and proper test existed, and then read out a litany of complaints, findings and fines that have been levelled at the Express Newspapers group, the pornographic TV channels that Desmond owns and himself. The article asked how can a person who has been fined by Ofcom himself then go on to own a televisions channel (and a terrestrial one at that – it has much higher obligations on the licence than a digital channel).


I then came across this Guardian article featuring some complaints made to Ofcom about Channel 5 showing sexually ambiguous adverts before the watershed.


It would have been fascinating to read the complaints (I shall now go searching!) and see whether it was the nature of the adverts (They are a little… naughty, while at the same time being perfectly innocent. Oh we all love innuendo!) or the fact that it was homosexual activity being advertised, ie did Mary Whitehouse write all the complaints?


In any case – it does seem that the fit and proper test is not even a factor being considered, taking into account Desmond’s history. Although it is worth pointing out that he has funded a paediatric eye hospital; so perhaps if there was no hospital, no licence. But since he did good, too, then it’s all ok!

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: