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“Deep Flaws” in Digital Britain Report, Claims Sky - Future of Broadcasting: Day Two

by David Mercer | 7月 01, 2009

Another excellent session this morningat the IEA/Marketforce's Future of Broadcasting conference, representing all the key players except the BBC. The main topic of debate was the Digital Britain report (DBR), and again Sky, in the form of David Wheeldon, Director of Public Affairs, stood alone in objecting to some of the key premises of the report. Describing the study as having “some deep flaws”, he suggested that the report failed to offer an accurate understanding of consumers’ future behaviour, and that key assumptions about the public interest were based on past behaviour. It also assumed by default that the instruments of change would be “incumbents” such as the telco (BT) and the BBC, rather than alternative providers (such as Sky). Fundamentally, Sky again questionned the premise that only free content has public value, whether state or advertising funded. Instead, the DBR failed to recognise the contribution of pay television, and Wheeldon again listed the various programming investments Sky is making in the arts and drama. We also heard from Dan Marks, until last night the head of BT Vision at BT, but since this morning officially unemployed. Dan told me he was really looking forward to kick-starting the retail economy (“going shopping” were his words), and intended, once the session was over, to do no more talking about the broadcasting or broadband industries. And who can blame him? So with his BT hat partly off, Dan broadly speaking gave the perspective of the public service player, which covers both the BBC and BT, since the latter is presented as the natural partner for ensuring delivering of universal broadband service. “Broadcasters will have to cooperate increasingly with telcos to manage the broadband spectrum” as it evolves into a fully fledged new medium for delivering interactive and television services. Sky “does not challenge the concept of the licence fee, but its scale and distribution”, according to Wheeldon, but it clearly has a fight on its hands as government policy responds to the recommendations of the DBR, and in its battle with Ofcom over control of wholesale pricing. I suppose it’s inevitable that these high level discussions are characterised primarily by two divergent sets of opinions. The history of UK, and indeed European, broadcasting, has been built upon the premise of free access for the whole population to a minimum level of television content, and based on government controlled access to wireless infrastructure. As we move into the era of broadband television, supported by new communications technologies and a plethora of potential new business models, these assumptions are inevitably going to be challenged. Twitter: twitter.com/DavidMercer_SA Client Reading: Digital Media Devices Global Market Report Add to Technorati Favorites
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