Ofcom’s general counsel role ditched in legal team overhaul

The new broadcasting and communications regulator Ofcom has dispensed with the general counsel function after finally agreeing on the makeup of its legal team.

Back in July, Ofcom offered jobs in the office of the general counsel to senior figures within the existing regulators (the Broadcasting Standards Commission, the Independent Television Commission, Oftel, the Radio Authority and the Radio-communications Agency), only to withdraw the offers just three weeks before staff begin moving into Ofcom’s offices.

In place of a general counsel, the super-regulator has appointed leading technology silk Peter Susman QC as an independent standing counsel. Susman has been appointed on a part-time basis and will continue practising as a barrister with Henderson Chambers.

Susman will be retained to represent Ofcom and will advise the Ofcom chairman, chief executive officer and the board of directors.

The most senior in-house lawyer will be the head of competition. Ofcom has poached Denton Wilde Sapte’s head of European Community and UK competition law Polly Weitzman to fill this role. She will also serve as Ofcom’s head of [the legal] profession.

There will be between 12 and 15 lawyers in Weitzman’s team, drawn from the existing regulators as well as from outside the organisation.

The Lawyer understands that some senior lawyers from the existing regulators have missed out and will be made redundant.

Weitzman will be a member of the competition and markets team at Ofcom and a member of the senior management team. The Dentons partner rose to prominence representing the Premier League on its dispute with the Office of Fair Trading over television rights.

The third senior legal role has gone to Graham Howell, the much-respected former company secretary and general counsel of HMV Group. Howell takes the role of secretary to the corporation. He will be responsible for corporate governance, administrative law and general litigation. He will manage a small team drawn from the existing regulators responsible for general legal matters, including matters arising from content issues and broadcaster licences.

Howell was made redundant from HMV in July, despite having a key role in the retailer’s initial public offering. Previously, he held in-house positions at Saatchi & Saatchi and London Weekend Television, and prior to that he was a partner at entertainment specialists Davenport Lyons.