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New Nominet chair: I’ll start by listening

Baroness Rennie Fritchie opens up

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Regulation

The issue for Board control also gained the interest of the UK government, which warned Nominet that it was prepared to step in if the organization couldn’t self-regulate. The result, in a number of clauses in the Digital Economy Bill, is that the government now has a number of reserve powers to take over the dot-uk registry if it thinks the situation warrants it.

Having previously worked as a regulator of government, Baroness Fritchie recognises the importance of that step and is determined to do something about it. “Self-regulation is very important. We have to demonstrate that not only do we have the tools but also that we use them well — and I think Nominet has demonstrated that extremely well to government.”

She doesn’t see the government repealing its new powers though. “Government is keen to have a final determinant. And given the last year of banks and the economy, you can understand why they would want it.”

But, she says, it was the previous Labour government that introduced the powers and so far the Conservative-Liberal coalition government “seems less interested in central control”, adding that she will want to test that hypothesis as well as “be able to influence” how this government views the reserve powers. “Part of the reason I’m here is that I worked as a regulator of government, so I hope to give the government confidence in Nominet,” she says, noting, “but I’m not there for government, I’m there for Nominet.”

Style

As to her likely style as chair, Baroness Fritchie highlights a philosophy of “principled pragmatism” which recognises that “there is always a principle behind the rule”. She also cites the first principle of a doctor's philosophy: “Do no harm.” “I know that an organization is only as good as the people who work for it, and I hope to demonstrate how to get the best we can from them.”

She recognises that the task of guiding Nominet will not be simple or certain, however, describing it as “a bit like navigating by the stars”. The key, says the woman who also authored a book called The Business of Assertiveness, is to “keep a strong heart and a cool head”.

If the past five years of Nominet’s existence are anything to go by, its new chair will need both. ®

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