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Media and Technology

Volume 511: debated on Tuesday 8 June 2010

The coalition’s programme for Government set out the Government’s belief that a vibrant media sector is crucial for our well-being and quality of life. The Government’s intention is to create the conditions that will allow enterprise to flourish in a way that avoids over-regulation or over-subsidy. I am therefore today announcing:

Rapid roll-out of superfast broadband: we need to put the digital infrastructure in place that will allow this country to increase growth rapidly in the digital economy as we come out of recession. The Government propose to take this forward in two areas: (i) backing the commitment to make a service level of 2Mbps available to those parts of the country still without a basic level of access; (ii) announcing three rural market testing projects that will bring superfast broadband to rural areas.

Access to infrastructure: to support the Government’s commitments to the roll-out of superfast broadband by ensuring that BT and other infrastructure providers allow the use of their assets to deliver such broadband, we will: (i) back Ofcom’s proposals for opening up access to BT’s ducts and telegraph poles to promote further investment; (ii) in line with the Queen’s Speech, offer clarity that if legislation is necessary then the Government are ready to bring it to the House; and (iii) to encourage further debate on the issue, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport will publish a paper setting out our latest thinking on this in July, coinciding with an industry day to be organised by Broadband Delivery UK.

Local media: as part of the Government’s wider commitment to localisation, we aim to provide the right incentives and conditions for sustainable commercial growth in local TV and online services. The Government therefore proposes: (i) that it will not go ahead with the previous Administration’s Independently Funded News Consortia (IFNC) pilots; we recognise the high degree of innovation and level of partnerships which emerged through the pilot procurement process; however, we do not agree that subsidising regional news is the right approach; (ii) instead, funding identified for the IFNC pilots will be used to support our plans for the roll-out of superfast broadband around the country; (iii) that we will accept Ofcom’s recommendations on reforming local cross-media ownership rules meaning they will be significantly relaxed. I will bring forward secondary legislation to the House to enact these changes as soon as possible; (iv) to support local television, we will be conducting a full assessment of the regulatory and commercial context for local TV with strong independent input in order to identify the interventions which can best secure sustainable local television in this country. Based on those findings, I will publish a full local media action plan in the autumn.

A full copy of my speech will also be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.