Page last updated at 16:51 GMT, Tuesday, 16 June 2009 17:51 UK

Experts react to Digital Britain

By Daniel Emery
Technology reporter, BBC News

The government has outlined its vision for the digital future of the United Kingdom.

The Digital Britain report promised a levy on fixed telephone lines to pay for faster broadband, examined sharing funds between the BBC and ITV, and looked at ways of tackling file-sharing.

The BBC has asked a number of industry experts, politicians, and analysts for their reaction to the report and what they think the repercussions might be.

John Whittingdale

The Conservative MP who chairs the all party committee on culture, media and sport.

I think it is more substantial than I feared it might be. There are some good things in it - I welcome the decision to make available money from the licence fee to make regional news available, to crack down on illegal file sharing and to relax requirements on radio and newspapers.

The decision to switch off analogue transmissions of radio in 2015 is very brave, but that is going to require a huge change.

I'm not wild about the telephone tax, so the people you are hitting are people are those least interested in broadband. It's not a huge amount of money but it is still a levy.

The most important measures will require legislation and although [Ben Bradshaw] said they wanted a bill in the Queen's speech, it remains to be seen. The government have very little time left.


Former managing director of Carlton Productions

With the exception of the 50p levy, pretty well all of this was as predicted. The language on the use of the licence fee was, perhaps, stronger than it might have been. The government are expressing a very clear preference for top slicing and the BBC are not happy. That said, they are putting it out for consultation, but it is pretty short order.

They are assuming they will take any under spend from the digital switchover to contribute to broadband rollout and to pilot new regional news provision and that is also something the BBC has not agreed to.

Geoff Taylor

British Phonographic Industry (BPI) Chief executive on the government's plan to combat illegal file-sharing

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 recognises as the driver of the digital economy


Shadow Culture, Media and Sport minister.

It was a disappointing report - this was the opportunity for the government to show it had a grip on the problems facing the digital economy.

There were some bright spots (the move to tackle internet piracy were welcome) but the two big things I was hoping they would tackle the roll out of high speed broadband network, that was disappointing.

The numbers don't add up: the telephone tax raises £150m a year, but the cost to get broadband to the most rural parts of the country will cost £3bn

And regional news, the government are wedded to an outdated model, rather than looking at how we can have a new platform for truly local news, which is what people want.

Fergal Sharkey

Singer Fergal Sharkey on stopping piracy

Former lead singer of The Undertones and chief executive of UK Music, an umbrella organisation that represents the music industry.

The government recognises that file sharing is socially wrong and that it is theft.

The government laid down a challenge to the industry and the industry has worked hard to create a range of new services for music lovers. Spotify has more than 1m customers in the UK alone; there's all the music you want for free on a streaming service. The industry is trying desperately hard to give the music they want in the way they want it.

Over the next few weeks and months we'll be having conversations and debate on dealing with those who don't want to engage with legitimate services.

The government has a slot in November to put legislation forward; lets move this discussion forward.

Don Foster MP

Liberal Democrats' culture, media and sport spokesman.

There's a lot of good stuff in it, ranging from sorting out who's going to deal with video game classification, the possibility of tax breaks on video games, clear switch over dates for digital radio, and strong measure in tackling illegal file sharing - although there are still questions in that area.

The key issue is the broadband rollout proposals are more far reaching than mot people expected and as long as there are some exemptions from the 50p per month levy on bills to pay for fast broadband rollout then that is an imaginative way forward.

The issues of Channel 4 and BBC World are not resolved, nor is sorting out the governance of the BBC itself. The biggest problem - although he avoided using the language - is top slicing of the BBC licence fee. We have long argued that the BBC should establish a partnership fund so it can build on the proposals in the report, but taking money away from the BBC is a clear breach of the BBC's independence.


Preventing illegal file sharing

Virgin Media's chief executive.

Commercial solutions are needed to change consumer behaviour..and you need to be able to show some thought leadership.

You need to change the business model...and to change consumer behaviour you need more carrot and less stick.

Andrew Ferguson
Editor of broadband comparison website

Some people will be happy with the 50p tax, others won't. It is quite a Labour thing to do something socialist where we all pay a bit. It's only fixed lines; they could have expanded it to mobiles.

The 2mbs is fine, but they haven't mentioned upstream and latency and that is critical for people who play games.

The online piracy will be interesting to see how it all works out - Ofcom will have powers to monitor things. They have worded it quite carefully so people can't sue for defamation. There's a six month period where Ofcom warn people and see how that turns out.

Roy Greenslade
Professor of Journalism at London's City University and columnist with The Guardian.

I think it is much as expected but what really stands out is the fact that the proposals have yet to be agreed on.

It's extraordinarily tentative and I think you could sum it up by calling it a 'vision without a strategy'.

Alex Salter
Chairman of broadband knowledge site SamKnows

It's a straightforward document. They set out 2mbps target for broadband, but the market was not willing to put their hand in their pocket.

So now we have a 50 pence a month levy on copper lines; they've done similar things in Australia. It will raise between £130 - £150 million, which is a fraction of what you will need to fund a fibre network, but it could create a seed fund for them to go back to the market.

Of course, it all depends on the group the government puts together to actually spend the money.

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