Digital Britain starts late as Minister’s train is slow, a bit like Virgin or BT
Broadband. As usual, the debate has been hijacked by the BBC, BT
, Virgin, Universal, Mirror Group and some irrelevant London web companies, who are really TV production companies in disguise. And, there's too many old guys in suits and ties. It’s a bit like the media supplement of the Guardian, where media equals TV and print. Nick Higham
, from (yes you’ve
guessed it) the BBC, is chairing.
Fittingly enough, the event’s taking place in a library – how British is that? So we have a brief interlude from the CEO of the British Library, who seems like someone from another century - that's because she is - just obvious cliches. The train-handicapped Minister, Andy Burnham, arrives, and opens with a statement of astounding stupidity, 'the British Library has long been the cornerstone of Britain's knowledge economy." Is this a joke? Nobody's laughing, but there's some puzzled looks.
Brown says ‘bugger blogs’
OK so he didn’t actually say that, but it we knew that he was thinking as much. Brown reads out the usual ‘digital revolution similar to industrial revolution’ line, but his heart’s not in it, as internally he must be cursing his digital demise by email and blogs. He’s been crucified with Damien McBride and Derek Draper as his convicted companions. Lots of old 1980s talk of ‘creative industries’, ‘creative talent’ and even ‘creative genius’. Is he turning into Tony Blair?
Only 200 people at the event – not quite enough for a revolutionary movement, unless we adopt some Al Qeda tactics, but this is how government operates. They tend to exclude the innovators in favour of civil servants and big corporate flunkies. Indeed, coffee break is 35 minutes, as most of the delegates are getting on a bit and couldn’t get through the morning without bladder relief.
Mandy – living proof of reincarnation
Next up is that living proof of reincarnation, and proof that it doesn’t depend on good deeds or moral character – Peter (sorry Lord) Mandelson, or ‘Mandy’ to his close friends, and enemies. This is the man who is so in touch that, when faced with mushy peas in his constituency fish and chip shop, he inquired about the ‘guacamole dip’. He whips us up into a frenzy with some quick quips and bon mots, then suddenly just as we reach the climax, he pulls out. ‘There will be a Government announcement on Monday!’ Oh Mandy.........
Oh no – it’s Anthony!
Oh no Anthony Lilley chairing, of the suitably and archaically named Magic Lantern, a company so inept that it only survives on government grants and handouts. I’m sure he won’t be mentioning the BBC Jam project (cost £75 million, products – nil). Magic Lantern is one of those London ‘electronic window dressing’ companies that survives through media contacts. I suppose he’s one of the creative geniuses Brown alluded to.
Sure enough we have Jess Search, despite the hip surname, she’s a C4 film documentary flunky luvvie – how un-digital is she? Lucian Grange, from Universal Music (actually a French company as it’s wholly owned by Vivendi). Johannes B. Larche CEO of Hulu (fair enough), Newscorp’s video site, and last but not least a TV web guy, who works on cross-platform projects for the BBC and C4! Illumina is another leech digital company, really a TV production company dabbling in web promotion for TV and film projects. It’s a bunch of analogue guys putting digital make-up on old media. Ooops the truth has just slipped out, we’ve slipped from 7th to 12th in the European league and Japan, China and India are leaping ahead. Reality can be so embarrassing.
Print dame's obituary
It’s getting worse, we have Sly Bailey from the Mirror Group. Since when was the Mirror a leading light in the digital world? She’s also a non-exec at EMI, known for its inept response to the digital music revolution. Despite astronomic pay rises she has seen circulation figures and the value of the group plummet to all time lows. What does she have to say on our digital future? You guessed it – absolutely nothing. Sorry, it was like watching someone reading out their own obituary. Ms Bailey slammed the Digital Britain report for only mentioning newspapers four times. That’s about four times too many for me. Wake up Sly. It’s not up to government to fix your outdated business model.
Future mired in the past
So concludes the Digital Britain debate. It's all so depressing. We’re gazing at the future but mired in the past. A tiny London coterie of TV, film and print people are sounding off about a world they despise and know little about, while the innovators are sidelined and ignored. As long as Digital Britain is in the hands of old analogue aunties, and pretend digital TV production companies, we’ll drop even further behind. We know what works in online media – it’s small techy companies doing innovative and disruptive things, being properly capitalised through angel and VC finance. Where are they?