Friday, June 19, 2009

The Song Remains The Same

I've finally had a chance to read the executive summary of the Digital Britain report and will gradually work my way through the remaining 250 pages.

Mostly, it resonated with me as someone who lives some of his life in a valley in Wales where there is no analogue or digital radio or TV signal - but still has to pay the ridiculous licence fee. I kept on asking myself - how will this change things? And the report does, reassuringly, seem to emphasise the lot of the 'have nots' in our digital era.

In my own summary, here are the good and the bad points in the report:

Good
  • universal broadband provision
  • rollout of dab radio
  • recognition of the importance of micro-payments in the future
  • chipping away at the licence fee monopoly
  • support for local news
  • emphasis on 'digital skills'
  • appointing Sir Tim Berners-Lee to look at data protection online
  • the hope that the government's online presence can be rationalised
Bad
  • naivety around file sharing
  • support for the gaming industry, which crashed and burned a long time ago in the UK
  • outright support for the BBC's monopoly
  • support for the licence fee
  • fudge over Channel 4's position
  • government making public data available 'publicly' - so, can we now have postcode data for free, please ?

Overall, the report is most disappointing for what it doesn't say or do. Tucked away pieces of legislation like the TV Without Frontiers proposal from the EU have had, and will have, significantly more impact, as will minor operational changes by companies like BT and Google.

Indeed, the unstated consequence of the report, as I see it, is the ongoing, unhealthy support for virtual monopolies like BT, NewsCorp, the BBC and Google, with an unwillingness to be bold, radical and ethical in the implementation of existing regulations and law.


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