The Communications Act 2003
) is an Act
An Act of Parliament is a statute enacted as primary legislation by a national or sub-national parliament. In the Republic of Ireland the term Act of the Oireachtas is used, and in the United States the term Act of Congress is used.In Commonwealth countries, the term is used both in a narrow...
of the Parliament of the United Kingdom
The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the supreme legislative body in the United Kingdom, British Crown dependencies and British overseas territories, located in London...
. It gave regulation body Ofcom
Ofcom is the government-approved regulatory authority for the broadcasting and telecommunications industries in the United Kingdom. Ofcom was initially established by the Office of Communications Act 2002. It received its full authority from the Communications Act 2003...
its full powers. Among other measures, it introduced legal recognition of Community Radio
Community radio is a type of radio service, that offers a third model of radio broadcasting beyond commercial broadcasting and public broadcasting. Community stations can serve geographic communities and communities of interest...
and paved the way for full-time Community Radio services in the UK; as well as controversially lifting many restrictions on cross-media ownership. It also made it illegal to use other people's wifi
WIFI is a radio station broadcasting a brokered format. Licensed to Florence, New Jersey, USA, the station is currently operated by Florence Broadcasting Partners, LLC.This station was previously owned by Real Life Broadcasting...
broadband connections without their permission.
The legislation also allowed for the first time non-European entities to wholly own a British television company.
The Communications Act 2003 had as its purpose to confer functions on the Office of Communications; to make provision about the regulation of the provision of electronic communications networks and services and of the use of the electromagnetic spectrum; to make provision about the regulation of broadcasting and of the provision of television and radio services; to make provision about mergers involving newspaper and other media enterprises and, in that connection, to amend the Enterprise Act 2002; and for connected purposes.
The Act introduced new offences for ‘Improper use of public electronic communications
network’, ‘dishonestly obtaining electronic communications services’ (Section 125), ‘possession or supply of apparatus etc. for contravening’ (Section 126), among other information disclosure offences.
The Crown Prosecution Service considers that the Section 125 charge of the CA may be
more appropriate than one of obtaining services dishonestly contrary to Section 11 Fraud
Act 2006; or a Section 1 Computer Misuse Act 1990 unauthorized access offence where
access to a telecoms service was obtained without permission .
A cornerstone of media regulation since television and radio was first invented, section 320 requires that television and radio services conduct programming in an impartial way.
- Wireless hijacking under scrutiny: "A recent court case, which saw a West London man fined £500 and sentenced to 12 months' conditional discharge for hijacking a wireless broadband connection, has repercussions for almost every user of wi-fi networks. ... Gaining unauthorised access to a computer is an offence covered by the Computer Misuse Act. In Straszkiewcz's case, he was prosecuted under the Communications Act and found guilty of dishonestly obtaining an electronic communications service."