Digital Britain: watch and listen

The Digital Britain report is open to comment until 12th March.

On 24th February NESTA hosted a conference on delivering Digital Britain. Many of the key players were present. Video and audio is now available.

It is an extraordinary opportunity to see the development of public policy enacted. Watch and listen.

NESTA delivering Digital Britain

I’ve seen Carter’s speech called ‘defensive’. Well, maybe. His central point though, is developing government policy: it is a report of government, not to government. Henceforth we will refer to ‘the Digital Britain report’, not ‘the Carter report’.

He summarises the report as covering three main areas: infrastructure, content and legal protection. Two further issues are the delivery of public services and a universal public service obligation for broadband. The widely criticised 2MB recommendation refers to a minimum standard for accessing public services, not a base level speed for internet access.

Throughout he is making the case for public intervention. A public policy framework is necessary for investment.

When he talks about content he is talking about television programming. The tactical / strategic distinction is about preserving some existing providers. Channel 4 is mentioned.

On legal protection (filesharing, DRM)  he says they have their ‘least formed ideas’ and are seeking engagement from other people.

Neil Berkett (Virgin Media) and Peter Bazalgette, (of Big Brother, Endemol fame) both ably represent their commercial interests. Bazalgette  repeats his view, heard in the recent BBC programme  Media Revolution (previous post) that tracking users’ viewing habits is a great opportunity for broadcasters and that legislation on product placement is a restrictive burden which should be removed. For overseas viewers: ‘knock heads together’ is just an expression.

Carter quotes a piece by Philip Stevens in the FT, in part to draw attention to an omission: the importance of public policy in developing next-generation infrastructure.

“On two things, everyone should be able to agree; first, the completion of the switchover to digital broadcasting in 2012 and the rapid advent of high-speed broadband transmission will overturn completely what remains of a broadcasting ecosystem created midway through the past century; second, high-quality news, current affairs, regional programming and home-grown drama and comedy will continue to demand substantial public subsidy.”

Financial Times

The rest is about what Stevens sees as the increasing monopoly power of the BBC.

Mark Thompson (BBC) wasn’t at NESTA.

Some context: as TV advertising revenues plummet due to recession and competition from the web, everyone in broadcasting wants a slice of the licence fee.

If it helps to visualise the different interests as personalities, try this

Public Service broadcasting in pictures

NESTA is the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts ‘a unique and independent body with a mission to make the UK more innovative.’

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