Digital Economy Bill: Govt Forced To Drop Key Clauses


By Mark Sweney: The government is to sacrifice clauses enabling the national rollout of replacement ITV (LSE: ITV) regional news services and giving Ofcom more power as part of last-minute political horse-trading to get the Digital Economy Bill passed into law.

Labour’s proposal for a £6-a-year tax on fixed-line phones to fund the rollout of superfast broadband, part of a separate finance bill, has also fallen at the wayside as the government attempts to push through legislation in the “wash-up” before parliament is dissolved later this week.

Ben Bradshaw, the culture secretary, has tabled three amendments to the DEB, which passed its second reading late last night with broad cross-party support. About 30 MPs were present in the Commons for the second reading debate.

The bill will now be rushed through its committee stage and report stage, to be followed by a third reading and final vote in a two-hour Commons debate tonight from 8.30pm.

The final vote on the DEB, which includes controversial measures that could result in illegal filesharers having their internet connections suspended or copyright-infringing websites being blocked, is expected at about 10.35pm.

Bradshaw has tabled amendments to remove three clauses following demands made by shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt yesterday…

— The first would have given Ofcom more regulatory powers.
— The second enabled the national rollout of replacement ITV regional bulletins produced by independently financed news consortiums.
— And the third related to licensing.

The removal of the IFNC clause, which would have enabled Ofcom to allocate funding and appoint consortiums to run services across the UK, is a further setback for the plan, which now looks to be dependent on a Labour victory on 6 May. The Tories have said they will scrap the IFNC plan if they win the election.

The government could theoretically still run the three IFNC pilots

This article originally appeared in © Guardian News & Media Ltd..

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