Digital Britain: Concern A Tory Govt. Could Halt Carter’s Progress


Two weeks after Digital Britain’s wide-ranging pledges, a Westminster Media Forum debate on Thursday morning frizzled with nervous consensus — Lord Carter gave a good road map for the digital economy, but a future Conservative government could block the way.

BT’s industry policy and regulation director Emma Gilthorpe wondered whether the 50p landline levy to fund universal broadband would be scraped: “I have some concern that the legislation will not survive the next general election — particularly as the legislation that is required won’t see the light of day until February or March next year.

” Guardian Media Group CEO McCall said: “I’m concerned that we may be getting another government. I cannot imagine a Conservative government putting Digital Britain in the top three things on its list.” Disclosure: paidContent:UK is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Guardian News & Media.

Speakers in the forum otherwise reacted to the substance of Digital Britain…

Patrick Barwise, professor of management and marketing, London Business School: While some criticised 2Mpbs as too slow, Barwise questions whether it needs to be that fast. He argued the only web service that needs 2Mbps is online video and IPTV is increasingly fulfilling VOD needs: “There’s a lot of hype about this, but the evidence based on audience behaviour shows that once consumers have a PVR, the incremental value of on-demand TV is minimal.”

BT (NYSE: BT) wanted bigger levy: Gilthorpe said BT was happy with the government’s acknowledgment that “the commercial case for broadband investment just isn’t there”, although she said the money on offer through a 50p landline tax “was not as much as we would have liked”. She said the “problem of copyright infringement places a risk of undue burden on ISPs” and Gilthorpe predicts those “backstop powers” to introduce technical measures “will not be popular with customers”.

Tony Cohen, CEO, Fremantle Media: Despite winning support for micropayments trials, Cohen wants more support and a “streamlining” piracy law. Cohen welcomes Digital Britain’s recommended anti-piracy measures and wants to set up a rights-holders group. Again, sounds a lot like the Rights Agency Lord Carter has already proposed.

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