One of the things the Media Policy Project aims to do in 2013 is provide much more information on future policy consultations, decisions and challenges. Here are some tasters that were discussed in a brainstorming workshop we held at the LSE with officials from Ofcom, the European Commission and academic experts.
DCMS will publish a Communications White Paper, outlining the policy for a future Communications Bill. Ed Vaizey said at the Oxford Media Convention that we should expect it in the next two to three months and that it would focus on ‘convergence, content and consumers’. Some key issues he highlighted are the renewal of the channel 3, 4 and 5 licenses, striking a balance between online businesses’ need to use data and consumer protection, and the protection of children. He also said that the government intends to propose a no fee either way for transmission of BBC on Sky and tax breaks for high end television and video game production to mirror those provided for films.
Work on the Communications Bill may however be complicated by the aftermath of the Leveson Inquiry, depending on what – if any – variation of a new ‘Leveson Statute’ is chosen. It is not yet clear exactly what that will entail, but the Labour party has circulated a proposed bill as has the Hacked Off Campaign. The government is also expected to make its proposals public in the near future. Responding to each of these proposals will be an important part of guiding policy makers as they debate and possibly implement Leveson’s recommendations.
Ofcom has just launched a public consultation on its Draft Annual Plan for 2013/14, and the draft outlines five main strategic purposes:
- Ensuring effective competition in media and communication markets;
- Securing optimal use of spectrum;
- Promoting opportunities to participate;
- Protecting consumers from harm in key areas (numbering, mid-contract price spikes); and
- Maintaining audience confidence in broadcast content.
Ofcom is also expected to review the implementation of the 2010 Digital Economy Act and its provisions on online copyright infringement, as well as conduct the statutorily required review of Public Service Broadcasting. The consultation on Ofcom’s Annual Plan is open until 22 February, so there is still time to respond to this agenda and suggest other subjects for research and review.
At the European level, the Commission has identified three main areas of intervention for 2013.
A Green Paper on Connected TV will likely be issued between the end of February and early March. This will report on the consultations and will draw the conclusions of DG Connect.
The Commission will also reflect on its policy regarding media pluralism and media freedom. The High Level Group on Media Freedom recently published a report that highlights the difficulties that the European Commission faces in trying to intervene on this issue. However, it also notes that the situation in some states, such as Italy and Hungary, calls for meaningful action but argues that the Commission does have competency in this area. The EC is expected to produce a response to this report.
Copyright is the third area the Commission will tackle before the election of a new commission in 2014. It will do so through the newly established Licensing for Europe with a view towards revision of the 2001 Copyrights Directive. This group aims at “adapting copyright to the digital economy”, with special attention devoted to user-produced content, archives, and text or data mining. The prospect of a new incoming Commission in 2014 may provide some opportunities to influence the agenda that the new leadership undertake.
Academics and civil society groups will need to be prepared to engage with this agenda, but can also work to get other important issues onto the radar screens of these institutions.
With thanks to Jacopo Genovese for contributions to this post.