U.K. communications minister to step down

Stephen Carter to quit after Digital Britain report publishes

LONDON -- Prompting intense speculation that he is in the running to head ITV, communications minister Stephen Carter is understood to be stepping down from the government post following next week's publication of his long-awaited report into the future of Britain's creative industries.

Carter, who has been working on the Digital Britain report for almost two years, is reportedly about to rejoin the private sector, according to the Times newspaper, which said Carter had told Prime Minister Gordon Brown that he would step down by July.

As a previous chief executive of media regulator Ofcom, cable venture NTL and public relations group Brunswick, and with a background in the advertising industry, Carter would have both the digital know-how and commercial experience to run ITV, senior figures said.

"He's one of a very small group of people who probably have the right balance of experience," a senior broadcast executive said. "He's young and he's worked in a lot of different parts of the business. He's got a very strong scorecard."

Other leading candidates are thought to be former BSkyB chief executive Tony Ball, who has held talks with ITV shareholders about becoming ITV chairman, with former BSkyB finance director Martin Stewart taking the role of chief executive.

The timing of Carter's departure will cause dismay in political circles, where he had been expected to oversee the implementation of the Digital Britain report, and will likely undermine the process of announcing the proposals next Tuesday.

The report will require changes in legislation that are not scheduled until September at the earliest.

The review, designed to revitalize the U.K.'s television, film, music and broadband industries, is thought to focus on introducing new measures to protect against digital piracy, to promote broadband access and to bolster the position of public service broadcasting.

The report is expected Tuesday, subject to the Parliamentary timetable.