What would people who publish local websites want from a new communications bill (apart from be left alone)?
Suggestions in comments please – will put some in when i’ve had a think – would be happy to round up a set of views, put them into government speak and submit them formally on behalf of wider range of organisations.
(Text of Jeremy Hunt’s 16 May 2011 letter to communications industry (post amended shortly after publication)
A Communications Review for the Digital Age
Open letter to all those who work in fixed or mobile communications, television, radio, online publishing, video games, and other digital and creative content industries. We would also welcome the views of bodies representing the interests of consumers, citizens and businesses that trade online.
The Government is embarking on a wide-ranging review of the regulatory regime for the UK communications sector, to ensure the regulatory framework in place is fit for the digital age. Our ambition is to establish UK communications and media markets as amongst the most dynamic and successful in the world, with the review process culminating in a new communications framework by 2015, to support the sector for the next 10 years and beyond. To help realise this ambition, we would like to begin the review by opening a dialogue with all those interested in the issues involved, and gather views on some specific questions posed in this letter.
As we are only in the initial phase of this work, we have designed our approach so it is not overly prescriptive, and this is reflected by the type of questions we are asking. At this stage our intention is to keep an open mind about potential outcomes and also about the mechanisms we should use to deliver these outcomes. A new Bill is the end point of whole process, but we are willing to take action sooner where primary legislation is not required.
This is a significant agenda and is at the heart of the Government’s wider policy set out in the recently published Plan for Growth. The aim is to put the UK on the path to sustainable, long-term economic growth. With your help, we can ensure that a balanced and proportionate system is put in place, which supports growth not only in the communications sector, but in the economy as a whole.
A regulatory framework suitable for the digital age and properly oriented towards growth is required in order to take account of the rapid pace of change in new communications technologies in the last few years. The UK is already a world leader in the broadband and telecommunications market, ahead of Germany, Japan and the US in terms of broadband penetration (at 70% of households), and the availability of an enhanced 3-G service for mobile data transfer at 87% of the total UK population. We want to ensure we have the framework in place to enable further success and promote healthy competition and growth in this innovative sector.
We need to adopt a flexible solution to this challenge. A deregulatory approach that deals with these developments to the benefit of both consumers and citizens, and also industry, is the aim. Though the focus in this letter is on the growth aspect of the review, the wider public interest will always underpin our approach to how any issues are addressed. We remain committed to the principle of independent regulation and will ensure that Ofcom has the right powers and duties to work in a way that gives businesses confidence in the regulatory system.
The questions we are asking today will assist us in gathering ideas and evidence to help frame the Government’s initial approach to deregulation and maximise the communications industry’s contribution to economic growth. Many of the questions posed will be familiar to you, but I hope that looking at these issues through the lens of economic growth will enable us to arrive at solutions that work for the communications industry, consumers, citizens and UK plc more generally.
We are exploring the issues under three key themes, though we recognise there is significant overlap between the issues that relate to each. These themes are:
- Growth, innovation and deregulation
- A communications infrastructure that provides the foundations for growth
- Creating the right environment for the content industry to thrive
I would welcome responses to this letter by 30 June 2011 and look forward to your ideas and positive suggestions for improvement. Arguments or proposals for changing the current system of regulation should be accompanied by strong and persuasive evidence. We would also welcome verifiable data relevant to your arguments giving examples of current models of regulation or self-regulation that either work well or are as not as effective as they should be. Evidence should be concise, with submissions no longer than 4-5 pages long if possible.
In addition, if you are aware of existing policy papers or relevant research that would contribute to our thinking then please send them to us. For example, you may wish to draw on evidence that you have offered to the Digital and Creative Industries or Intellectual Property Growth review, or any analysis of future market trends and international sector comparison data with which you are familiar. We would also like to hear about how the relationship between the three themes affects their development and how this will change over time as platforms and services continue to develop.
Evidence collected will be used to inform the development of a Green Paper and, following publication, there will then be a long period of consultation with a view to producing a White Paper and Draft Bill by April 2013.
In addition to this call for evidence, at the start of July Government will also be inviting comments on specific pieces of regulation as part of the Government’s flagship Red Tape Challenge. As part of this exercise businesses will be able to comment on the regulation which affects their particular industry as well as rules, around things like equality and employment that cut across all sectors. Where appropriate we will make the links between these pieces of work.
I look forward to hearing your views and hope this will be part of an ongoing dialogue with you on these key issues.
Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport