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Comms Green Paper ‘by summer’

Following the admission by John Whittingdale, Chairman of the UK House of Commons Chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, that a Communications Bill was unlikely to feature in the government’s legislative programme for 2013-14, Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, has revealed that a Communications Green Paper – a tentative government report and consultation document of policy proposals for debate and discussion – will be published “before the summer recess” which is scheduled for 18 July 2013.

The then Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Hunt, confirmed in June 2012 that the government would introduce a new Communications Bill by the end of the Parliament (i.e., before May 2015). Publication of a Green Paper, to be followed after consultation by a White Paper setting out policy proposals, would allow this aim to be achieved.

Delivering a keynote address at the DTG Summit in London, Vaizey said the document would concentrate on the four ‘Cs’: Consumers, Connectivity, Content and Creation. Consideration would also be given to granting communications regulator Ofcom fresh powers “for things that may happen in the future,” although he admitted that there was a risk in prescribing powers that may hinder innovation.

He also revealed that changes in 700MHz spectrum use would be necessary should – as anticipated – the World Radiocommunication Conference in 2015 designate the band to be allocated to mobile broadband. He admitted that any such clearance was unlikely before 2017.

According to Vaizey, the government was looking at three possible scenarios concerning future DTT platform operation under a revised spectrum regime. The first centred on a more limited DTT offering. The second would see DTT exist alongside cable and satellite distribution, with super-fast broadband delivering enhancement. A third scenario, should the 700MHz spectrum be cleared, would see DTT migrate to 600MHz, entailing minimal changes.

For Vaizey, it was important for regulatory models to emerge that allowed the TV industry to support Public Service Broadcasting and for bodies such as the Future of Innovation in Television Technology (FITT) Taskforce to be bold in approaching issues such as developing models for TV consumption after 2025.

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