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Communications Bill – is it going to look at the right subject matter?

Having mentioned the comms bill in my last post I now find that the expected Green Paper is not now going to be published. Instead over the coming months five seminars will inform the communications review.

The seminars will look at:

  • The Consumer Perspective
  • Competition in the Content Market
  • Maximising the value of spectrum to support growth and innovation
  • Driving investment and growth in the UK’s TV content industries  
  • Supporting growth in the radio (audio) sector

“The UK’s communications sector is one of the strongest in the world” said Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt. “We must ensure the sector can grow by being at the forefront of new developments in the industry. It is essential that we set the right conditions for the industry to enable businesses to grasp the opportunities created by new technology.”

Communications Minister Ed Vaizey added “The communications industry is a key part of our economy. Through these seminars, we will look in detail at how best to drive investment and competition. We want to shape the Communications Bill so that we have the right framework to secure our place as Europe’s tech hub.”

Much of the blurb up until now is lifted straight from the DCMS website. I can’t argue with any of it though some of it seems to me to be very much born out of subject matter that government can get its brain around.

For example content providers, ie TV companies in the main, have been asking for a level playing field – the clues lie in the bullet points provided to us as a guide on what is likely to be discussed in the Seminar – how important is exclusivity in supporting investment and innovation, how much choice do consumers have and how open is the market to new entrants?

The bit about spectrum is also an easy one to grasp. Although there are legal minefields to tread at the end of the day it seems about making best use of the spectrum available.

This is all fair enough but I do find myself asking how much innovation and growth this is really promoting? It’s all about extensions to old business models.

I humbly suggest that what we really want is to create an environment that supports innovation in the new world we want to be encouraging the next Google or Microsoft to start up in the UK. We do see some signs of progress. The reintroduction of EIS Tax relief for entrepreneurial investors and the effort to create an emphasis on computer programming in schools spring to mind.

I think though that we need to think a lot bigger than we are doing. How about a 10 year moratorium on capital gains tax for new technology startup investment? I bet that would result in many Californian based VC companies moving to the UK.  How about government loans or matched funding for high risk high tech projects. How about creating an immigration environment that would encourage talent to want to come to the UK instead of Silicon Valley?

Perhaps I’m being naïve in thinking that “communications” extends beyond programming content and next gen mobile. Everything I do these days involves communications in some form or other.

The government wants the private sector to haul in the slack created by cuts in the public sector. It needs to come up with creative and innovative solutions to stimulate this. It also needs a level of understanding in government of issues relating to technology and the internet. Many of the noises that we have been hearing are counter-innovative and have been about constraining how we can use technology and not the opposite.  C’mon guys. Move it on.

Trefor Davies

By Trefor Davies

Liver of life, father of four, CTO of, writer, poet,

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