Digital Britain plan unveiled

From Colin Mann in London

The UK Government departments responsible for business and media have published a plan aimed at securing Britain's place at the forefront of the global digital economy.

The interim report – produced by voluntary Steering Board of industry experts led by Stephen Carter, the Minister for Communications, Technology and Broadcasting – contains more than 20 recommendations, including specific proposals on: next generation networks; universal access to broadband; the creation of a second public service provider of scale; the modernisation of wireless radio spectrum holdings; a digital future for radio; a new deal for digital content rights and enhancing the digital delivery of public services.

Business Secretary, Peter Mandelson said the report set out "a strategy for building a knowledge economy where our most valuable assets are the skills and innovation that underpin our digital industries. This is absolutely vital if Britain is to benefit fully from some of the greatest economic opportunities on offer this century.”

Culture Secretary Andy Burnham noted that Britain had always led the world in content creation and said that it was vital to carry forward this strength into the digital age. "This is a significant Report for the creative industries, taking steps to establish workable systems of copyright in an online age and to preserve choice of public service content. But it is only the beginning of the process and we need to work hard in the coming months to secure workable solutions.”

The 22-point action plan outlines a programme of work with commitments to: upgrade and modernise wired, wireless and broadcast infrastructure; secure a dynamic investment climate for UK digital content and services; provide a range of high quality UK made public service content; ensure fairness and access, with universal availability and promotion of skills and media literacy; and develop the infrastructure, skills and take-up to enable widespread online delivery of public services.

Publication of the final Digital Britain Report is due before the summer. Carter said that delivering Digital Britain would depend upon a smart industry, working with a committed Government to produce lasting solutions.

Carter gave the clearest indication yet that government backed behind a Channel 4 a tie-up with and BBC Worldwide, instead of a merger with Channel Five. In the Digital Britain report he echoed the conclusions of last week’s public service broadcasting review by media regulator Ofcom, which said Channel 4 should be at the heart of a “new entity”.

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