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Digital Switchover: Finance

Volume 495: debated on Wednesday 1 July 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what estimate he has made of the cost to the public purse of implementing the recommendations made in the Digital Britain report; and if he will make a statement. (282859)

The Digital Britain report makes a number of recommendations that will involve public expenditure. Estimates of the cost of implementing them, where available, are set out here. Some proposals are subject to further consultation and discussion with stakeholders that will have a bearing on the final cost. These estimates do not include public sector staff or administration costs, or areas where further work is planned but no policy decision has yet been taken.

As outlined in the report, the main sources of funding proposed besides general taxation are a new 50 pence per month levy on fixed copper lines, the underspend on the Digital Television Switchover Help Scheme (subject to further consultation with the BBC Trust), and a contained contestable element of the TV Licence Fee from 2013 onwards, on which a public consultation was launched on 30 June.

Cost estimates

Universal Access to Broadband: estimated cost £200 million, based on current estimates of the Digital Switchover Help Scheme underspend. Other public sector organisations including the devolved authorities and regional development agencies may also contribute over the life of the project.

The National Plan for Digital Participation: up to £12 million.

Next Generation Access Broadband Networks Final Third project: to be funded by a centrally held Next Generation Fund raised through a proposed 50p per month levy on fixed copper lines, expected to raise £150-£175 million per year. A further £150,000 is to be made available to help establish an Independent Networks Cooperative Association.

Research: the Technology Strategy Board has committed to fund a £10 million digital test beds programme, and a £30 million digital innovation programme.

Support for SMEs: up to £23 million over next three years will be spent on pilot business support interventions for SMEs to assist them to exploit advanced ICT to transform their business processes.

Cost estimates not yet available

Mobile spectrum refarming: the Government have agreed to meet the costs incurred by broadcasters and Programme Making and Special Events users as a result of spectrum reallocation. Discussions are being held with Ofcom, the PMSE community and broadcasters to determine the level of costs involved and on what basis, and how, costs will be met.

Independently Funded News Consortia: the extent of public funding necessary will depend on the scope of IFNCs and the funding model adopted. Both will be among the issues tested by the planned pilots.