DCMS Communications Review Seminar Series

DCMS Communications Review: Seminar Series

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DCMS Communications Review Seminar Series

The Communications Review

Nearly a decade after the last Communications Act, there is now an opportunity to build on our telecommunications, media and technology capabilities, and turn the UK into Europe’s technology hub.

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The Seminar Series

To help inform policy options for a White Paper, we will be holding a number of half-day seminars. The seminars will cover various topics, and invite input from a wide range of people.

More about the Seminar Series »

How to get involved

You can read the seminar papers, leave a public comment or make a private submission to the team behind the Communications Review. You will also be able to access and comment on seminar outputs.

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The Future of Entertainment and the Communications Review

On 20 June, Ed Vaizey gave a speech to The Future of Entertainment summit. Here you can read highlights of his remarks on topics relating to the Communications Review.
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A new entertainment landscape

The entertainment landscape is changing, with content being accessed in new and different ways, while traditional channels continue to exist alongside. With digital developments, a more integrated structure is expected, providing massive opportunities for the UK.
Our first priority in this new media world is to have the right digital infrastructure to take advantage of this content explosion, whilst supporting production and protection. Second, we need to create the right conditions for continued investment in content. And, running through this is the need to protect the consumer, while bringing regulations up-to-date to enable innovation.

The Communications Review will look specifically at content regulation. We want to achieve comprehensive systems for protecting children from inappropriate content, content regulation and consumer protection in the digital age.

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Protecting children from inappropriate content

We already have one major ISP which has introduced effective parental controls, in the form of active choice. We’ve also established Parentport, a one-stop website to enable parents to complain about inappropriate programmes, adverts, products and services.

But we want to go further, we want all ISPs to introduce active choice as soon as possible. The Department for Education will soon consult with industry, and more widely, about what more can be done to keep children safe online. And we’re also looking at whether to introduce age-ratings for a much wider range of content, such as music videos.

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Content regulation

We will be looking across the whole content supply chain – broadcasting, internet and media – to determine a suitable approach to content regulation, taking into account the recommendations of the Leveson inquiry. 

As far as possible, we want to see a system that is independent of both industry and government, and which is future-proofed as the silos break down between press, broadcasting and internet delivered content.

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Consumer protection in the digital age

The internet has brought a series of new challenges, namely the need to protect a consumer’s data, and to make sure their experience on-line is safe.

Interrupting a user’s experience with constant requests for consent to store or access this or that cookie so you can measure how many people visit a particular page on your website is simply overkill. And arguably it distracts attention away from the really important privacy choices consumers have to make in the modern online world.

But the kind of legislation we have seen in the past and the kind we are seeing proposed now is a direct reaction to a genuine concern about user privacy and the extent to which data is being collected and used without users knowledge or consent. So if we want to avoid the same or stricter legislation in the future industry must take the lead and be proactive in this area. 

Online payments

It isn’t just data that is a key component in new business models.  The market for micropayments, different subscription models and other payment mechanisms and structures are all being experimented with in various ways.

From Apps to television episodes to monthly subscriptions to a library of content; purchasing digital content is becoming easier and is opening up many more options for consumers. 

So we need to ensure appropriate protection in security of payments; a right of redress should things go wrong; and the need to provide a fair deal for consumers so that, for example, once someone has paid for a product they can use it across multiple platforms, within reason.

The Department for Business is working on a consumer bill of rights which aims to set out in one place a simple code of shopping rights. As part of this work it is expected that consumer rights in relation to digital content should be clarified. A consultation on this will begin shortly.
 
We are keen to encourage market led solutions and will explore whether there are any regulatory barriers to these types of services developing further or whether more could be done to enable them.

Other areas for consumer protection

We also need to look at other ways the consumer needs protection, such as:

  • the ability to switch providers easily, whether mobile, ISP, or now cloud services;
  • further measures to combat nuisance marketing calls;
  • better protection from cyber bullying of children and the harassment of internet trolls.

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Open Access

All of this may sound worrying for people who believe the internet shouldn’t be regulated at all. But as the internet becomes all pervasive, it is quite right for Government to look at enforcing the normal rules of good behaviour that we should expect from a service that is delivered into the heart of people’s homes and lives.

The Government is and remains a strong advocate of an open internet providing a platform for new businesses, enabling new products and services for consumers. 

We are, I hope, close to signing an industry wide code of practice on the open internet. This would represent a significant achievement in this regard. The Government is very grateful to all the industry players who have participated constructively in the debate. 

Having said that, we want to ensure that the market doesn’t develop in anti-competitive ways. To that end we are seeking views on whether Ofcom’s existing powers to intervene are sufficient and sufficiently clear to address any future concerns about blocking or other forms of discrimination. 

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Accessibility

As well as open access to the internet, it is important that all people have access to the content and services that the market provides. The UK is a world leader in the extent and quality of access services available and in the commitment of broadcasters and other content providers to meet the needs of disabled people.

As the market develops and evolves in all sorts of different directions I want to make sure that we continue to raise the bar in this area and develop technologies to drive inclusive design and increase accessibility. Whether this be through EPG accessibility or access to video on demand content I believe there is more that can be done to push for equivalence of access and I encourage you to take up this challenge.

Legislation is hopefully not the solution – I believe that more can be achieved through innovative, market led solutions than can be set out on the statute books.

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Read the full Ed Vaizey Future of Entertainment speech transcript

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