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Vaizey: We want a BBC ‘fit for the digital age’

March 4, 2015

By Colin Mann

Echoing comments made two days earlier by BBC Director General Tony Hall that the BBC must reinvent itself for the Internet era, UK Minister for the Digital Economy Ed Vaizey has suggested that a future government conducting the BBC Charter review should strive for a BBC that is fit for the digital age.

Delivering a keynote speech at the Oxford Media Convention 2015 on the role of government in the multi-media age, Vaizey noted that since 2009, the Creative Industries in the UK as a whole had been a “brilliant” success, rising three times faster than the economy as a whole and that the next Government would want to build on this success.

He said that the issue at the top of the next Government’s in-tray would be the review of the BBC’s Charter, which has to be renewed at the end of 2016. “The next government will have, in effect, 18 months to conduct the process. We made a conscious decision not to start the Charter Review before the general election. We didn’t want to get the BBC mixed up in partisan point scoring,” he advised.

“There are many reasons why we need the BBC. Their recent commitment to work with UK-wide arts institutions and to support coding in schools are just two recent examples of this. Radio 1’s commitment to new music is another. We want to see a BBC that is fit for the digital age, able to fulfil the many roles that the BBC has done so successfully for many years – not just great content, but education and training, technical innovation, and a huge and irreplaceable contribution to civic society. But as I say, that debate won’t begin until May 8, and we won’t be expressing any views before then,” he confirmed.

He suggested that the second big – somewhat related – issue would be the next phase of the transformation in media brought about by technology. “These are massive changes, bringing to the fore important issues – privacy, data, content regulation, intellectual property, competition. The rise of Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Netflix have transformed the experience of consumers. They bring huge opportunities, but also challenges to traditional media businesses,” he said.

“We have always believed in an open Internet, as free as possible from regulation, and we have made the case again and again with our allies in international fora. But an open Internet doesn’t mean a lawless free for all,” he argued.

In conclusion, he said he was “really proud” that the Creative industries sit at the heart of this country’s success. “We will continue to support you. We will intervene where we need to – but we will always work with you. We will build the infrastructure for the future that we all need. We will support investment in content and strong IP rights. And we will build an environment in which you can all succeed,” he stated.

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