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UK Government reveals Communications Review next steps

June 7, 2012

By Colin Mann

The UK Government has outlined the next stages in its review of communications policy. The announcement follows recent speculation that the process was being delayed as a result of the uncertainty surrounding the position of Media Secretary Jeremy Hunt, whose continuation the post had been called into question amid suggestions that he had expressed support for News Corp’s intended take-over of BSkyB when his department was charged with assessing aspects of the bid.

According to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), a series of policy seminars will be held in the coming months to shape and inform the Government’s communications review. “The UK has a world-class communications industry and the Government is committed to providing the sector with the right conditions to continue to prosper and grow,” says the DCMS. “The Government is working to reform and update the legislation covering our communications sector to help secure the UK’s place as the technology hub of Europe. We will introduce a new Communications Bill by the end of the Parliament to ensure the UK continues to have a world-beating communications sector that delivers innovative and high-quality content along with safe and efficient services.”

The seminars will be used to examine particular issues and collect evidence to inform the communications review.

Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport Jeremy Hunt said: “The UK’s communications sector is one of the strongest in the world. We must ensure the sector can grow by being at the forefront of new developments in the industry. It is essential that we set the right conditions for the industry to enable businesses to grasp the opportunities created by new technology.”

In May last year, the Government published an open letter inviting views on what the communications review should focus on.

The responses to the open letter showed there was no need for a complete overhaul of the legislation but they did recognise the need to update regulations to ensure they are fit for the digital age.

We must ensure that any regulations provide the sector with the flexibility it needs to take advantage of the opportunities for growth presented by new technology and business models.

The seminars will be dedicated to exploring specific issues and we will shortly publish a series of policy papers outlining the key questions each seminar will consider.

Communications Minister Ed Vaizey said: “The communications industry is a key part of our economy. We have the largest independent television production sector in the world while the UK is the second largest music exporter in the world.”

“We are the only country in the world with five public sector broadcasters and we spend more per person on e-commerce than any other major economy.”

“Through these seminars, we will look in detail at how best to drive investment and competition. We want to shape the Communications Bill so that we have the right framework to secure our place as Europe’s tech hub.”

The seminars will look at:

  • Driving investment in TV content;
  • Competition in the content market;
  • The consumer perspective;
  • Maximising the value of spectrum;
  • Supporting growth in the radio sector.

Several other strands of work to help create the right conditions for the UK’s creative and digital sectors to grow are on going.

The existing work on online copyright infringement will continue. The Government is also working to implement the recommendations from the review of the UK’s entire intellectual property framework, which was led by Professor Ian Hargreaves.

The work on content regulation will be taken forward in the autumn following the recommendations of The Leveson Inquiry.

Lord Justice Leveson is expected to finish the formal part of the Inquiry by the end of July and will publish his report in the autumn. The report will include recommendations on the future of press regulation.

A White Paper will be published in early 2013 with a Communications Bill introduced by the final session of this Parliament.

The Government is also working to provide greater protection for children from inappropriate content. We are strengthening the ratings system for video games, consulting on extending age ratings to more music videos while regulators have strengthened the rules covering outdoor and online advertising.

The top four Internet service providers (BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin) have committed to ensuring all new customers make an active choice on whether adult content on their home internet connection should be blocked.

The UK Council for Child Internet Safety has been working with the wider Internet industry on the adoption of active choice across all internet enabled devices and internet access points. The Department for Education will also consult industry and others about what more can be done to keep children safe online.

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