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Written Statements

Volume 480: debated on Friday 17 October 2008

Written Ministerial Statements

Friday 17 October 2008

Culture, Media and Sport

Digital Britain Report

The Minister for Communications, Technology and Broadcasting, Lord Carter, is today launching a joint programme of work by my Department and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform which will lead to a digital Britain report (DBR) in the spring of 2009.

Information and Communications Technologies and Broadcasting account for 5.9 per cent. of GDP, £52 billion-plus of turnover and 500,000 jobs. Indirectly they are critical to every business in the economy and to people’s quality of life.

The Government have already undertaken much important work in this area, particularly:

The recently published Cairo review on next generation broadband access;

The Digital Radio Working Group currently scheduled to deliver a report in December;

The recent memorandum of understanding to address file sharing between internet service providers and rights holders;

The Byron review on children and new technology leading to the UK Council for Child Internet Safety;

The work of the convergence think tank; and

The digital inclusion action plan.

This sits alongside complementary strategic work by the industry regulator Ofcom, for example on public service broadcasting and regulation of broadband and by the UK Intellectual Property Office on adapting our copyright framework to meet the challenges of the digital age.

A growing body of evidence shows us that convergence—the coming together of different means of delivering content (television, radio, mobile and internet)—has already arrived for many people in many situations, and that policy approaches need to reflect that fact. We now need to prepare to take the next steps to prepare Britain for a future beyond convergence. The DBR will provide the platform to do this.

The overall strategic objective of the DBR will be to ensure the UK maximises the benefits of convergence right across the economy and society. This will be delivered by achieving the public policy objectives of open markets; empowered and informed consumers and citizens; universal access to public service content; and a responsive regulatory framework.

Within these public policy objectives, there will be nine areas of focus, around which the report will consider what future legislative and non-legislative measures are required, resulting in a detailed action plan. The structure of the report will be as follows (some areas of study will inform more than one policy objective; for simplicity they are listed under the category they most strongly match):

A. Open markets providing investment, innovation and choice, at all levels of the value chain including infrastructure, service provision and creation of content:

Broadband development: examining options for maximising participation and levels of service across the UK.

Digital radio: identifying barriers to wider investment and development of digital radio platforms, and drawing lessons from the current digital switchover television programme.

Investment in content: exploring business models for content development in a digital age, and the impact of new media on the content market.

Spectrum: identifying the barriers to the release of spectrum and a fully functioning market in the trading and use of spectrum.

B. Empowered and informed consumers and citizens fully equipped to take advantage of the opportunities convergence brings:

Internet: looking at a range of issues affecting internet users, such as user security and safety and a workable approach to promoting content standards.

Media literacy and IT skills: identifying inhibitors to IT take-up and barriers to maximising the economic and social effects of digital technologies including empowering consumers.

C. Universal access to high quality, public service content through appropriate mechanisms for a converged digital age:

Public service broadcasting and content: evaluating the impact of digitalisation and the new technologies on public service broadcasting assets and public service licences, in the UK as a whole and in the nations and regions.

Independent production: examining how to ensure the health of a vibrant independent production sector, including examining the impact of the current quota system.

D. A responsive regulatory framework that maximises investment and innovation by providing certainty and equipping regulators with the right tools to achieve their objectives:

Intellectual property: the UK Intellectual Property Office will take forward work to deliver adigital copyright framework which supports creativity, investment and job creation in these important sectors.”

A copy of this statement will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Letter from Lord Carter:

DIGITAL BRITAIN REPORT

My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has made the following statement in the House of Commons:

The Minister for Communications, Technology and Broadcasting, Lord Carter, is today launching a joint programme of work by my Department and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform which will lead to a digital Britain report (DBR) in the spring of 2009.

Information and Communications Technologies and Broadcasting account for 5.9 per cent. of GDP, £52 billion-plus of turnover and 500,000 jobs. Indirectly they are critical to every business in the economy and to people’s quality of life.

The Government have already undertaken much important work in this area, particularly:

The recently published Cairo review on next generation broadband access;

The Digital Radio Working Group currently scheduled to deliver a report in December;

The recent memorandum of understanding to address file sharing between internet service providers and rights holders;

The Byron review on children and new technology leading to the UK Council for Child Internet Safety;

The work of the convergence think tank; and

The digital inclusion action plan.

This sits alongside complementary strategic work by the industry regulator Ofcom, for example on public service broadcasting and regulation of broadband and by the UK Intellectual Property Office on adapting our copyright framework to meet the challenges of the digital age.

A growing body of evidence shows us that convergence—the coming together of different means of delivering content (television, radio, mobile and internet)—has already arrived for many people in many situations, and that policy approaches need to reflect that fact. We now need to prepare to take the next steps to prepare Britain for a future beyond convergence. The DBR will provide the platform to do this.

The overall strategic objective of the DBR will be to ensure the UK maximises the benefits of convergence right across the economy and society. This will be delivered by achieving the public policy objectives of open markets; empowered and informed consumers and citizens; universal access to public service content; and a responsive regulatory framework.

Within these public policy objectives, there will be nine areas of focus, around which the report will consider what future legislative and non-legislative measures are required, resulting in a detailed action plan. The structure of the report will be as follows (some areas of study will inform more than one policy objective; for simplicity they are listed under the category they most strongly match):

A. Open markets providing investment, innovation and choice, at all levels of the value chain including infrastructure, service provision and creation of content:

Broadband development: examining options for maximising participation and levels of service across the UK.

Digital radio: identifying barriers to wider investment and development of digital radio platforms, and drawing lessons from the current digital switchover television programme.

Investment in content: exploring business models for content development in a digital age, and the impact of new media on the content market.

Spectrum: identifying the barriers to the release of spectrum and a fully functioning market in the trading and use of spectrum.

B. Empowered and informed consumers and citizens fully equipped to take advantage of the opportunities convergence brings:

Internet: looking at a range of issues affecting internet users, such as user security and safety and a workable approach to promoting content standards.

Media literacy and IT skills: identifying inhibitors to IT take-up and barriers to maximising the economic and social effects of digital technologies including empowering consumers.

C. Universal access to high quality, public service content through appropriate mechanisms for a converged digital age:

Public service broadcasting and content: evaluating the impact of digitalisation and the new technologies on public service broadcasting assets and public service licences, in the UK as a whole and in the nations and regions.

Independent production: examining how to ensure the health of a vibrant independent production sector, including examining the impact of the current quota system.

D. A responsive regulatory framework that maximises investment and innovation by providing certainty and equipping regulators with the right tools to achieve their objectives:

Intellectual property: the UK Intellectual Property Office will take forward work to deliver a digital copyright framework which supports creativity, investment and job creation in these important sectors.

Defence

Nimrod Update

The House will recall the circumstances surrounding the loss of Nimrod XV230 in September 2006 which led to the tragic death of 14 service personnel. The subsequent Board of Inquiry recommended that the ageing aircraft audit be reviewed to include aircraft systems. In order to ensure that we found the most robust way possible of meeting this recommendation and tightening up our safety and maintenance procedures we decided to conduct a forensic-level teardown of a Nimrod aircraft. This approach is extremely rigorous, and the first time that we have conducted this sort of exercise.

We wanted to gain the most information possible from this process. Therefore we selected XV236 because it was due to go into its five-yearly major maintenance refit and it is one of most heavily used aircraft on operations in our fleet. The work, which is being conducted by QinetiQ, began in August.

QinetiQ has provided an initial report which sets out the result of an extensive visual inspection, conducted as a precursor to the teardown work itself. This inspection has revealed a number of faults and husbandry issues, which had not been recorded in the aircraft’s maintenance documentation. There were examples of corrosion, scratches in the aircraft structure, and some damage and deterioration. Apart from the aircraft structure scratching and a cable anchoring issue, both of which were investigated across the fleet to ensure that other aircraft were not similarly affected, the issues were individually minor in nature.

We immediately commissioned a separate thorough investigation in response to the teardown report to assess whether the individual and cumulative impact of these issues had any serious airworthiness implications. They did not, and it was concluded that the Nimrod remains safe to fly. This investigation was carried out in conjunction with QinetiQ and BAE Systems with each issue identified in the QinetiQ report being analysed, explained and remedial action identified where required. This has formed the basis for a companion report that places the initial QinetiQ report into its proper context.

We have also initiated an inspection of the Nimrod fleet to ensure that maintenance procedures are being rigorously applied. It is well underway and will be completed by the end of October.

Copies of both reports are today being placed in the Library of the House and the MOD website. The material is also being passed to Mr Haddon-Cave QC for inclusion in his review.

The teardown work will generate quarterly reports, setting out the findings and conclusions reached. We propose to adopt a similar approach to each of these reports and to make them available in the same way. In the meantime QinetiQ staff, the MOD’s integrated project team, and the design authority, BAE Systems, remain closely engaged to ensure that any issues that might require immediate attention or investigation are known and understood. If at any point QinetiQ identify a serious airworthiness issue during the teardown they have been asked to raise it immediately with the MOD, in order that we can take swift action.