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2nd June 2011
AIME Call for Member Views – Comms Act 2015
The government has asked for feedback on ideas for new laws to govern the telecommunications, online-media and digital-content industries, as a prelude to introducing a new Communications Act in 2015.
In an open letter to people working in those industries, culture secretary Jeremy Hunt said the government is embarking on a wide-ranging review of UK communications rules "to ensure the regulatory framework in place is fit for the digital age".
The current Communications Act became law in 2003, and the informal consultation initiated recently is the first stage in coming up with a new regime.
"We want to ensure we have the framework in place to enable further success and promote healthy competition and growth in this innovative sector," Hunt wrote with regards to the broadband and radio spectrum aspects of the policy review. "We need to adopt a flexible solution to this challenge. A deregulatory approach that deals with these developments to the benefit of both consumers and citizens, and also industry, is the aim."
While the government is focused on growth in the relevant industries, "the wider public interest will always underpin our approach to how any issues are addressed", Hunt noted. He stressed the government remains "committed to the principle of independent regulation and will ensure that Ofcom has the right powers and duties to work in a way that gives businesses confidence in the regulatory system".
It may seem fairly early in the regulatory process to be considering what shape the future regulatory environment should take. However, AIME has been at the forefront of representing industry to government and the regulator Ofcom since 2000 and in our experience, having chewed through 28 regulatory consultations, each major consultation takes about 2-3 years from start to finish. The enormity of this task set out by Jeremy Hunt is not underestimated and to squeeze the process into 4 years will be some achievement. To this end AIME has already met with Jeremy Hunt’s policy advisor last year to highlight several issues around the current regulatory environment. There’s currently a blank canvass and by representing industry views early we have an opportunity to influence the foundations of a future regulatory framework that is appropriate to industry and consumer needs.
The current "dialogue" is not a formal consultation, but rather a "first stage in engagement with a view to a Communications Bill" that will appear in draft form around 2013, a spokeswoman for Hunt's Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) told AIME.
The questionnaire includes questions such as: "What action can be taken to facilitate greater innovation and growth across the wider competition regime, and how can deregulation help achieve this?"
Deregulation sounds good because it’s easier to implement, but before zooming into detail about what framework should exist, at this stage our initial comments need to reflect a back to basics understanding of how the market has changed since 2003, and how the converged media environment interconnects across industry – then we can start to unpick the current framework which sees many member services working within the remit of seven regulatory bodies. Please take time to read the call for input, consider the questions posed and provide us with any early views you have.
Of note, ILP is likely to also submit views. AIME met recently with PhonepayPlus and other ILP members to discuss the prospect of a joined up industry response. It has been agreed that ILP will initially draft a paper for circulation to ILP members and this will highlight areas such as the importance of micropayments for future UK commerce. It will also touch on the term Premium Rate and reflect on whether the broader market of micropayment solutions needs CPRS-style micro-regulation.
A section of the questionnaire is entitled "Creating the right environment for the content industry to thrive". Much of this is to do with public broadcasting, and the accompanying text noted that the section does not cover intellectual property issues, the government’s plans for which will derive from the upcoming Hargreaves Review.
You can respond to Jeremy Hunt’s open letter online until 30 June. Evidence collected in the review will be used to inform the development of a Green Paper which will be followed by a long period of consultation with a view to producing a White Paper and Draft Bill by April 2013.
Please copy AIME Secretariat with any views sent to DCMS directly. firstname.lastname@example.org