To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, with reference to the Autumn Budget and Spending Review 2021, which funding stream is providing the £110 million announced for the Government's online safety regime; if she will provide a breakdown of how that funding will be allocated; and whether the providers of the regulated services will cover the regulatory costs.
2 November 2021
We have achieved a positive outcome through this Spending Review, securing continued funding across Online Safety and delivering on the government’s commitment to make the UK the safest place to be online.
Through Spending Review 2021, over £110m has been allocated to the implementation of the Online Safety regime. This will deliver the Online Safety Bill and a regulator (Ofcom) for the new regulatory framework which the Bill will establish; along with a package of innovative online safety implementation measures which are required to implement the legislation, and create the conditions for the legislation to be effective.
Whilst DCMS’ activities will be funded through the departmental Resource Departmental Expenditure Limits (RDEL) budget, the funding for Ofcom will be through the retention of Wireless Telegraphy Act (WTA) receipts. Section 401 of the Communications Act 2003 allows Ofcom to retain WTA receipts to meet certain costs which it cannot otherwise recover through imposing fees and charges to industry.
Once the Online Safety regime is operational, Ofcom will be industry funded and therefore cost neutral to the government. Ofcom will be given powers to charge an annual fee to in scope platforms which meet a financial threshold. The fees will be differentiated and will be levied proportionately in order to recoup Ofcom’s annual operating costs.
Under the draft Online Safety Bill, once the funding regime for Ofcom goes live, certain set up costs can be recouped through the industry fees.