Digital Britain points to present and past, not future
Here we go, Digital Britain is off the blocks and it’s mostly a tired set of protectionist prohibitions, and potential punishments. Actually most of it has little to do with ‘Digital’ Britain, as it focuses on TV, radio and newspapers. Our Digital Future has been spiked by a bunch of London-based paper and TV folk.
Who’s running the show now?
All the hallmarks of ineffective leadership – two alternating Chairs and a Board of civil servants (oh, and Martha Lane Fox, as Digital Inclusion has been promoted to top spot!) OK, what about the Partner Group? Out of the 11, no fewer than three are Digital Inclusion bods. Talk about overkill, this partner group has so many inclusion experts that everyone else is excluded! Then a TV guy, two sector skills council (we all know how effective they’ve been), three more civil servants, an Ofcom guy and some unnamed person for some quango I’ve never heard of. It’s a sorry lot.
Digital Economy Bill
Impending election, not a chance. A mish-mash of dull radio and TV stuff that is about as ‘digital’ as my granny’s bloomers and of, course, the promise to prosecute real digital users.
Digital Inclusion and Participation
Much as I admire the work of Helen Milner, putting this as the first priority is tragically backward looking. The original report confirmed that huge numbers of people who are not online DON’T WANT TO BE ONLINE. £12 million set aside but most of that will be eaten up by the a new model army of Digital Inclusion professionals. Laughably, Channel 4 are to be asked to lead the charge – a TV channel leading the way – how very British!
Money will be poured into known and unknown quangos to no good effect. Most of this is far removed from the private sector that knows most about delivery in this area. Skillset – the TV and film mob will be central stage. And guess what the TV mob Channel 4 are leading the charge – again! C4's like a lost abandoned child, everyone fusiing and finding things for it to do.
Current and Next Generation Broadband
Universal Service promise – but this will be plagued by problems, namely, 'Who will pay and by when?' New snappily branded quango “Network Design and Procurement Group”.
Arbitration, consultation and harmonisation through Ofcom. Problem here, “"With a Conservative Government, Ofcom as we know it will cease to exist. Its remit will be restricted to its narrow technical and enforcement roles," David Cameron. One concrete idea here, and they’re rare, is the possible support for Broadband on trains and mobile on tube.
Digital Radio Upgrade
This section is the longest but least relevant. Expensive DAB upgrade that nobody wants or cares about – really an excuse for giving yet more cash to the BBC. Since when did radio become a force for digital good?
Tax relief for video games companies – no chance as European competition laws forbit it. A ‘usability’ centre – completely unnecessary – good, professional, commercial usability and test centres already exist. I know, I set one up. Then some stupid stuff about strengthening the PEGI system. This became law in June 2009 and has worked fine for years. It's complicated enough as it is, leave it be.
Illegal file sharing
DB turns out to be an analogue wolf in sheeps' clothing, hunting down digital users. Don’t worry, Ofcoms powers will be stripped away by the Tories and this unworkable proposal will die a deserved death. It’s just so unbalanced – no real look at outdated IP laws – just threats by top-down politicians and curmudgeons to kids and students.
Amazingly brief sentence on taking some money from BBC to give to locals. What’s ‘digital about this?
Public Service Content
Usual licence fee wrangles on how to split up the analogue pie between BBC, C4 and others – yawn. Digital Britain appears to be one in which we’re still all watching TV and listening to radio.
Independently Funded News Consortia
Funding ‘News Consortia’. Looks like more analogue protectionist rubbish.
BBC/ Independent Production in the Nations
More TV stuff. This time TV production quotas – apparently we need more in regions. Wow, that’s a new suggestion! You try getting all of those luvvies out of London.
National Digital Security
At last, some sensible, hard hitting technical and business-based, internet suggestions. This one section is worth more than all of the rest put together. Unfortunately, no one on the board or partner group knows a damn thing about any of this.
Personal Digital Safety
Fair enough, as long as Reith doesn’t rear his ugly head and the moralisers start telling me what to do.
Online Consumer Protection
Again, fair enough. Online commerce has to be robust.
Weak, weak, weak. Easy for Gov departments to wriggle out of this one. Then an amazing sentence, ‘Establishment of G-Cloud’. What the hell is that! And lastly reference to those unremittingly, backward looking map people, the Ordnance Survey.
Digital Delivery Agency
Having spawned so many units, quangos and bodies in this report, the report then suggests bringing them all together. Why not start off this way? Talk about horses and stable doors.
Other Relevant Activity
Next Generation Digital Test Beds (whatever they may be), Local newspapers, Local Authority advertising, BBC rights. It all ends on a string of bum analogue notes.
What a wasted opportunity.