Digital Britain report draws mixed reactions

Early indications suggest report uninspiring

LONDON -- Reactions to the publication Tuesday of the long-awaited and much-heralded Digital Britain report here began flooding in the minute Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw sat down after delivering his speech to the House of Commons.

Billed as the biggest shake up in broadcasting in a generation, the report didn't seem to set the world on fire.

In fact, the U.K. music industry trade body the BPI described the report as "digital dithering," because of its failure to introduce harder anti-piracy measures quickly.

While the report confirmed new legislation requiring media watchdog OFCOM and Internet Service Providers to crack down on people involved in illegal file sharing, BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor said the lack of speed is a problem.

Taylor said: "Evidence shows that the Government's 'write and then sue' approach won't work. And Government appears to be anticipating its failure by lining up backstop powers for Ofcom to introduce technical measures later. This digital dithering puts thousands of jobs at risk in a creative sector that the government recognizes as the driver of the digital economy."

Digital Britain contains proposals to deal with illegal file sharing and sets out two requirements for ISPs: to notify subscribers identified as infringing copyright; and to maintain an database of repeat infringers.

The report also called for the BBC to share some license fee income with regional news generators.

ITN CEO John Hardie said: "ITN has a key role to play in the new architecture as the nexus of national and regional news provision, working with local media on the ground to provide enriched broadcast and multiplatform content and to ensure a true competitive alternative to the BBC. Those who are shielded from commercial realities should not be allowed to delay this funding intervention and risk damage to these crucial services."

The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, an independent body to fuel innovation in the U.K. said if the report achieved only one thing, it is to remove the digital future debate from the margins and put it front and center politically and nationally.

NESTA has estimated that if the U.K. does not get up to speed in its transition to digital markets, the U.K. economy stands to lose an annual £6 billion ($9.87 billion) in value added by 2013.

NESTA chief executive Jonathan Kestenbaum said: "The challenge for policymakers is to harness this new power in a positive way. It's time for Britons to get digital."

The initial public reaction to the report was a mix of confusion and anger. Early texters to the BBC wondered what the report actually meant. But there was an immediate backlash against the report's call for fixed line telephone users to subsidize the rollout of super fast broadband across the country.

"I use my telephone but I don't have a computer, never mind broadband," said one SMS. "Why should I have to subsidize something I don't use."
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