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Openreach Chairman Tipped to Take on Same Role at Ofcom UK

Friday, January 14th, 2022 (8:26 am) - Score 1,704
ofcom uk telecoms regulator

The long-winded, complex, and sometimes highly controversial attempts to find a new Chairman for the UK telecoms regulator, Ofcom, appears to have taken another twist. Reports suggest that Openreach’s experienced Chairman, Mike McTighe, has allegedly become a front-runner to take on the role. AltNets may not be happy.

Back in early 2020 it was revealed that Ofcom’s then Chairman, Lord Burns, had agreed to step down (here). The main reason appeared to be related to Ofcom’s future powers to regulate internet content, which will extend its role. “The Secretary of State has indicated that the Government would like a Chair to be in place who is able to oversee the successful implementation of any changes in full,” said Ofcom at the time.

NOTE: The Government says Ofcom’s Chair will be paid £142,500 per annum (here).

The new Chair was originally supposed to be in place by the end of 2020, but this goal was not achieved and in January 2021 the Government instead appointed Maggie Carver to the role as an interim Chair (she previously held the role of Deputy Chair). Despite this, it’s been widely reported that the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, wanted the former Daily Mail editor, Paul Dacre, to take on the role.

However, in May 2021 the interview board rejected Dacre’s application and, instead of choosing from one of the other candidates who had been cleared by the recruitment team, the process was controversially restarted (i.e. all the approved candidates were effectively rejected by the then culture secretary, MP Oliver Dowden). In short, Dacre was given a second stab at the role, but in November 2021 he opted to withdraw from the process.

According to the Telegraph, Sue Gray, the senior civil servant also investigating Downing Street parties (assuming they can ever figure out how to define a ‘party‘ 😉 ), is now chairing the new independent appointment panel to find Ofcom’s next Chair, and Mike McTighe has allegedly become the new front-runner for the role. McTighe has history with Ofcom, after he previously spent 8 years on the regulator’s board, as well as chairing boards in the energy and financial services sectors.

Some operators, such as BT and Openreach (obviously), may view McTighe’s possible appointment to the role as a potentially very constructive step for the telecoms sector. But we suspect that others, such as many alternative networks (AltNet), might feel deeply uncomfortable with the idea. In any case, if McTighe were appointed to the role, then there would have to be a 6-month period of purdah to address any potential conflicts of interest, but that’s unlikely to placate all the concerns.

Indeed, there is already a feeling among AltNets of being neglected by Ofcom – despite the significant investments currently being made to help build a more competitive market, and particularly after the bitter disputes over Openreach’s ‘Equinox‘ discount on FTTP broadband lines (here). On the flip side, regulators often benefit from having those with telecoms experience brought within the fold.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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17 Responses
  1. Skinny says:

    No chance of influence there then .

  2. Optimist says:

    I’d prefer someone who will champion the consumer.

  3. anonymous says:

    The same Secretary of State that claimed there was no WiFi in Devon indicating this.

    This is obviously not a good look.

  4. Ex Telecom Engineer says:

    Highly unlikely to happen imo, too many conflicts of interest. I can’t imagine this news has any substance behind it. I can’t read the Telegraph article, as it’s behind a paywall, but I can’t imagine a vested interest would be given the Chairmanship of Ofcom, whether from BT,Openreach, VMO2, or any of the Altnets.

    1. anonymous says:

      It does take revolving door to a new level – skipping the door.

    2. occasionally factual says:

      But if you don’t have someone who has worked in a major board level position for one of the 2 major companies, you get a person without any experience in the area making massive decisions.
      And that wouldn’t work well.

    3. thinkabouttheoptics says:

      “if you don’t have someone who has worked in a major board level position for one of the 2 major companies, you get a person without any experience in the area making massive decisions” – lest we forget, regulating telecoms is but one part of Ofcom’s remit. Having said that the key qualities required here are surely more about political neutrality, independence of any perceived vested interests, and experience in complex regulatory and governance contexts. Sure, some telecoms or broadcasting experience would I’m sure be valuable, but the room will be full of such expertise.
      Appointing a BT veteran would be a serious error of judgment.

    4. Buggerlugz says:

      “Having said that the key qualities required here are surely more about political neutrality, independence of any perceived vested interests, and experience in complex regulatory and governance contexts.”

      So none of these qualities then.

    5. The Facts says:

      BT veteran?

      Mike is an experienced telecoms executive and regulator. He was appointed as our first chairman in November 2016.

      Mike spent eight years on the board of Ofcom, from 2007 to 2015. He’s previously been chairman of several other public and private companies, and is also carrying out the role for Together Financial Services Ltd, IGas Energy plc and Arran Isle Ltd. He’s held various non-executive roles after spending most of his career at Cable and Wireless, Philips, Motorola and GE.

  5. HR2Res says:

    A case of gamekeeper –> poacher –> gamekeeper!?

    Just about anyone is better for this position than BJ’s mate Dacre, who just like in the case of Owen Pattison, BJ tried to re-engineer the rules for.

  6. A_Builder says:

    Would be a bad look: don’t.

  7. Bryony Quinne says:

    He’s been in a position of power for 8 years… look at the mess we are in…..

  8. Dan Spurr says:

    I remember when a former Verizon lawyer was made head of the FCC in the US, US net neutrality is in a shambles and the agency has otherwise been massively ineffective in providing customer protections and scrutiny of telecoms and cable providers.

    Its safe to say that being sceptical of this guy making decisions the benefit consumers over his or his friends business interests is pretty prudent.

    1. Buggerlugz says:

      Which is exactly why they’ll hand him the job on a plate.

  9. JamesBand says:

    “Jobs for the boys!”

  10. ad47uk says:

    Ofcom should be done away with,

  11. Ernest Craggs says:

    The possible appointment of McTighe should be stopped. The move to digital voice is at his insistence and following the aftermath of Storm Arwen in the North East and Southern Scotland when all that was left was copper wire and an old analogue instrument the move should be revisited on the grounds of emergency services not contactable in the event of major power outages. It should also be considered as part of National Security when mobile masts could be targeted since they have no back up electricity supply. Power outages of several days and inclement weather need some answers to potential problems.

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