Mark Thompson at The Oxford Media Convention

Mark Thompson is Chief Exective of Channel 4. His speech at the Convention was outstanding. His principle point was that the old, Reithian language of public service means little to contemporary audiences and that a new language is now required – one that acknowledges the ‘second order’ benefits of public service ‘merit goods’. These second order benefits are the indirect ones that ripple through society, making use of network effects as they go. For an example he used Jamie’s Kitchen, whose direct public service benefits may be uncertain but which, he claims, has created a new attitude to unemployment, apprenticeship and the obligations of employers.

Ed Richards at the Oxford Media Convention

Ed Richards is The Prime Minister’s priniciple adviser on media matters. He’s a famously shadowy figure (he actually tried to dodge out of the frame as I took his picture!). His presentation was a fairly robust defense of the Government’s record on new services and particularly its attitude to applications from the BBC.

Critics accuse the Government of being too soft on Dyke’s BBC and too quick to grant the corporation entry to new sectors already well catered for by the private sector.

He was one of the few speakers to actually mention the Internet (or at least ‘broadband’ which seems to be the respectable way to say ‘Internet’ these days) but when I cornered him about the exclusion of the net from Ofcom’s scope he held his hands up in the now rather tired attitude of “hey, the net’s too big and complex for regulation…”

Lord David Currie at the Oxford Media Convention

Lord Currie is the first Chair of Ofcom. He’s building his rag-tag team (rumoured to be at least 600 strong) and setting terms of reference now in readiness for the green light once the Communications Bill hits the statute books. Perhaps understandably he remained resolutely vague about the direction and tone of the super-regulator and when I asked him why he thought the net was explicitly excluded from its scope, he literally shrugged his shoulders as if to say “nothing to do with me, guv”. I hope he’s able to form an opinion by the time Ofcom is formally in operation.

Andrew Graham at The Oxford Media Convention

Andrew Graham is an economist and Master of Balliol College. His trenchant and entertaining views on media regulation are well known. He famously said that “if you could measure quality it would just be quantity”. One of his observations in Oxford was that the effect of the Communications Bill and Ofcom’s arrival is that broadcasting has been overrun by economists. Mark Thompson bore this out by basing his keynote presentation on a term obviously borrowed from economics (even if only the Bluffer’s Guide): ‘Merit goods’. Graham predicts that the next wave of colonists will be the lawyers, once they get their teeth into the opportunities created by the new legislation.