When Government Says [A] They May Mean [B]

Digital Britain is a report to the UK Government from a Steering Committee of the usual suspects and television presenters. Full of promise, but no means to deliver? No, sadly they get it “wronger” than that, as you will see…

It starts off well with has Five objectives

1 Upgrading and modernising our digital networks – wired, wireless and broadcast – so that Britain has an infrastructure that enables it to remain globally competitive in the digital world;
2 A dynamic investment climate for UK digital content, applications and services, that makes the UK an attractive place for both domestic and inward investment in our digital economy;
3 UK  content for UK users: content of quality and scale that serves the
interests, experiences and needs of all UK citizens; in particular impartial
news, comment and analysis;
4 Fairness and access for all: universal availability coupled with the skills and digital literacy to enable near-universal participation in the digital economy and digital society; and
5 Developing the infrastructure, skills and take-up to enable the widespread online delivery of public services and business interface with Government.

Well, you might notice points 2 and 2 and think, “oh, good, extra help for animation, content and digital creativity that will include capital and some sort of financial incentive. Dream on. If you then read down to page 8 you find:

We will, by the time of the final Digital Britain Report, have considered the value for money case for whether public incentives have a part to play in enabling further next generation broadband deployment, beyond current market-led initiatives.

Basically that means “we won't pay, but we will criticise you if you don't help us do that, and we might even find some ways to make life difficult if you don't” (for those with long memories, I point to Michael Hessletine and the well known tactic of threatening windfall taxes on people who don't help governments meet objectives)

They even get it so horribly wrong in pages 46 and on where they think that content is going to be such things as news and current affairs. Have they not heard of ENTERTAINMENT, (or education, or business for that matter) as drivers of digital content consumption? Anyone got a spare copy of the Habbo Youth Report to send them?

Basically, this report can only have come from a committee made up of the over 40 year olds. I await the birthdays of the members, but I am willing to stake a bottle of wine that the average age was over 45. Was there not a risk that they might prove to be utterly out of touch with what is really happening? (and I am over 45, but with the soul of a 17 year old, so I have a little more connection with the digital world)

There are some nice words,

ACTION 10 In the final report we will examine measures needed to address the challenges for digital content in more detail, including opportunities for providing further support to foster UK creative ambition and alternative funding mechanisms to advertising revenues.

But no detail beyond “stating the bleedin' obvious”. Which they then go off piste to state means that “It must have a digital content protection framework” and a “Automated Content Access Protocol” which is not only a chilling “Big Brother” statement, but is almost certain to be proved  laughably wrong in the face of all the evidence in the digital content world. Going on, and on, and on, as it does for 3 more pages about creating “fear” in teenagers, and punishing repeat offenders, and catching people who do things that others think are wrong is not really C21 thinking, now is it?

Let us not, for now, go further on Action 13

Our response to the consultation on peer-to-peer file sharing sets out our intention to legislate, requiring ISPs to notify alleged infringers of rights (subject to reasonable levels of proof from rights- holders) that their conduct is unlawful. We also intend to require ISPs to collect anonymised information on serious repeat infringers (derived from their notification activities), to be made available to rights-holders together with personal details on receipt of a court order. We intend to consult on this approach shortly, setting out our proposals in detail.

because that one is worthy of a major public campaign later this year.

The plea for a Rights Agency to enforce digital copyright (funny how they can find money for employing more time-wasting bureaucrats but not for the creative industry that powers the whole value chain itself) is another example of the staid, “inside the box” thinking that is present throughout this report.

We already knew that, as it says in section 3

UK content production is in turn an important part of the overall creative industries sector that in total accounts for more than 6 per cent of UK gross value added, which as a sector is equivalent in scale to the financial services industry. Radio and TV, along with software, computer games and electronic publishing account for around half of this total.

The OECD estimates that the UK cultural sector is relatively more important (at just under 6 per cent of GDP) than its equivalent sectors in the US, Canada, France and Australia. Unesco estimates indicate that the UK is the world’s biggest exporter of “cultural goods”, surpassing even the US.

Would it not be easier to just do the sums, as TIGA did some years back, and put some cash behind one of our most vibrant and export generative industries, just once?

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