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The Government’s recently published Digital Britain Report has by all accounts received a lukewarm response. At just under 250 pages, the Carter Report is an exhaustive dissection of Britain’s media and technology landscape. It has however been criticised for being too short on detailed measures and a little too long on waffle.
The report, heralded by ministers as the advent of a technological revolution for 21st century Britain, has been labelled by the Conservative Party as “government of the management consultants, for the management consultants by the management consultants”.
The Government commissioned former Ofcom boss Lord Carter last October to draw up a strategy “to secure the UK’s place at the forefront of innovation, investment and quality in the digital and communications industries”.
But critics argue the report is too wide-ranging and is lacking in focus. Indeed, the report’s scope was massive. By attempting to tackle in one fell swoop such issues as the future of the BBC, the role of local and regional news, the extension of the broadband network and the defense against internet piracy- each issue arguably worthy of its own detailed review- the Government was surely pre-destined to deliver a report that was far broader than it was deep.
The report centres on the provision of universal access to broadband by 2012, paid for by the “top-slicing” of the BBC licence fee and the imposing of a £6 annual levy on all fixed-line phone users. Beyond this, ”surplus” licence fees- earmarked originally to help with the switchover to digital TV- will be made available to other media bodies, namely alternative national and regional television news, in an attempt to promote plurality in British media services.
Nevertheless, critics contend that the report has posed far more questions than it has answered. Some doubt that the debilitated Prime Minister has either the energy or political resources to enact the proposals anyway. The cabinet reshuffle and the resignation from government of Lord Carter himself has arguably thrown into doubt the foundations of the government’s commitment to the report and it will be interesting to see how soon Peter Mandelson’s newly formed Department for Business Innovation & Skills delivers on promises made.