Sharon White, the second permanent secretary at the Treasury, has been announced as the new boss of Ofcom and at pretty interesting time. Just yesterday, BT said it had agreed to buy Britain’s largest mobile network EE for £12.5bn - a move that no doubt the regulator already has its beady eye on.
White will take over in March next year with a salary of £275,000, Ofcom said. She has managed the UK’s public finances since November 2013, and has a seriously impressive list of previous employers over the last 25 years, ranging from the UK embassy in Washington and the World Bank to the 10 Downing Street policy unit and Ministry of Justice.
The Cambridge and UCL-educated economist will become the first woman and black person to head Ofcom when she replaces Ed Richards, who is standing down this month after eight years in the job. She is also one half of public sector power couple with husband Robert Chote, who heads the independent Office for Budget Responsibility.
As well as looking into whether BT is becoming too big for its own boots and dealing with the likely resulting consolidation in the telecoms industry, White will also need to deal with the nebulous beast that is the internet. At the moment, Ofcom limits itself to nagging BT about broadband coverage and producing reports on online safety, steering clear of protecting the oh-so-vulnerable public from offensive material as it does with TV and radio.
‘Sharon brings with her an outstanding combination of intellect, political acumen and experience leading complex public organisations,’ Ofcom chair Dame Patricia Hodgson said.
‘The Ofcom Board is confident that Sharon will provide the leadership and vision to ensure Ofcom continues to promote a thriving communications sector in the UK that operates in the public interest.’ Hear hear.