The government has presented a report on its digital communications strategy, designed to help Britain’s tech industry flourish, to a panel of industry executives from Google, O2, BT, BBC, Sky, and ITV.
The report, titled Connectivity, Content and Consumers: Britain's digital platform for growth and released in July, was outlined at a private members club in London’s Belgravia today by Ed Richards, CEO of communications regulator Ofcom.
"This is a very important document in an important set of markets and industries for UK growth," said Richards. "We know for example that the digital economy in its broadest sense is a greater percentage of GDP in UK than in any other country, so it matters a great deal."
Richards told the panel and a room full of other senior industry executives from the likes of Three and Yahoo that the government needs their help on developing and setting legislation around areas such as spectrum management, switching internet providers and addressing the affordability of TV and broadband packages.
However, the report was heavily scrutinised by several members of the panel, with the majority claiming the government had neglected to acknowledge some of the most pressing issues facing technology, media and telecoms industries.
Google’s head of public policy and government relations manager, Theo Bertram, said: “One of the big complaints we had is where does Google and the rest of the internet fit in with the DCMS [Department for Culture, Media & Sport] view of the world.”
He added: “The future of mobile and search doesn’t really fit with anything in the communications paper.”
Google, which prides itself on being a forward-thinking technology company, also criticised the archaic nature of the report. “It’s very much a continuity document,” said Bertram. “It means we have old legislation still tinkering with new challenges. That’s going to be increasingly difficult.
“Some of the challenges [in mobile and search] are interesting and potentially disruptive for the UK digital market, but we don’t think they are in any way considered in the strategy paper. Our big worry is that it continues to try and add the internet as an afterthought to its much more traditional structure around TV and communications.”
Paul James, head of public affairs at Telefónica O2 UK, said government failed to mention areas such as big data and smart cities in its communications strategy. “I don’t think there’s 10 minutes of interesting discussion in this whole document to be honest,” said James at the start of his keynote.
David Wheeldon, director of policy and public affairs at BSkyB claimed that the report merely revisited issues from five years ago that are already heavily regulated. “I fear government’s missed an opportunity,” he said, adding that it should be looking at how new technologies will alter the shape of the media and telecoms markets.
BT, ITV and the BBC welcomed the report but also drew attention to a number of topics that failed to get a mention.