BSkyB: UK media policy ‘living in the past’

david-wheeldonA senior executive at BSkyB has accused the UK government of missing an opportunity to think more widely about the future of the broadcasting industry, suggesting its strategy paper wrongly concentrates on old arguments in an already heavily-regulated industry, risking handing the advantage to rival players.

Participating in a session on responses to the government’s digital communications strategy at the Westminster eForum, David Wheeldon, Director of Policy and Public Affairs, argued that the paper ignored the key market dynamics that had occurred in the last five years. “Netflix, which is a company with 40 million subscribers and has invested $200 million in original content is referenced only once. Twitter gets a single mention, despite the impact it is having on news dissemination and plurality,” he noted.

“The UK’s commercial TV sector that is growing faster than the PSBs combined and now invests more in UK content than Channel 4 gets a paltry sentence. Instead, the paper revisits arguments that Ofcom was examining four or five years ago on issues such as protecting the entrenched position of PSBs, the challenge of content standards in an Internet age and switching [suppliers],” he said.

“It’s a shame that so much energy is devoted to bits of the industry that are already heavily regulated, all subject to massive public intervention while our international rivals let the market drive innovation and investment. I’m afraid I fear that the government’s missed an opportunity to think more widely about the future of our industry in broad strategic terms. How will technology alter the shape of the market in 10 years? How are business models going to change? What do consumers really care about and what will help the sector compete globally,” he suggested.

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