Industry leaders dissatisfied by Digital Britain plans

The Governments blueprint to position the UK at the forefront of the global digital economy is failing to address the online content and creative industries, according to industry leaders.

The Government’s blueprint to position the UK at the forefront of the global digital economy is failing to address the online content and creative industries, according to industry leaders.

The Digital Britain interim report released in February and an associated summit held in London last week have been widely criticised by digital experts as lacking any substantial policy around the role of the content creators and the digital marketing sector, along with a perceived bias towards protecting the needs of traditional media.

The summit — which included speeches by Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Lord Mandelson, as well as Trinity Mirror CEO Sly Bailey, Universal Music CEO Lucian Grange and Hulu senior VP for international Johannes Larcher — provided a platform for debate about the Government’s plans.

But both summit attendees and speakers have questioned the consultation process and how the Digital Britain roadmap will eventually impact the industry.

Their concerns build on existing calls from the industry for more clarity and consultation following the release of the interim report earlier this year (nma 5 February).

Speaking to new media age, Anthony Lilley, CEO of production company Magic Lantern, chair of the UK digital content forum and a panel moderator at last week’s event, criticised the lack of clarity around the report. “I honestly don’t know what Digital Britain is for and how we know when we’ve done it,” he said. “Should we be the most innovative nation, should we be creating the most saleable content and services, or do we just want nice pipes?”

Lilley said the report’s focus on infrastructure is ignoring the needs of content producers. “You can have the fastest broadband in the world but that doesn’t make you the place that will create the applications or services of the future,” he said.

Marc Giusti, group digital officer at Leo Burnett and vice-chairman of the IPA digital creative group, criticised the lack of debate around content. He highlighted that only two out of ten speeches at the summit covered content while the event focused heavily on digital’s impact on traditional media.

“The commentary was coming from people who were having problems with the speed of acceptance, rather than the effort going into what the answers might be,” said Giusti. “But then that’s the natural lifecycle when something is new and you join the debate late.”

Nick Stringer, the IAB’s head of regulatory affairs, said the benefit of emerging online business models had largely been overlooked in both the original report and the Summit, despite engagement between the industry and the UK Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR).

“There has been very little about the benefits of new business models and online advertising — things like behavioural targeting,” said Stringer. “There could be an acknowledgment that these techniques could bring revenues to content producers, but I’m not even sure they’ve looked at it.”

Hugo Drayton, CEO of InSkin Media, said, “There wasn’t one reference to advertising; no real recognition of revenue models in a digital world. What the industry needs is a framework and regulatory environment that encourages Britain to progress in the right way.”

Speaking at last week’s event, Communications, Technology and Broadcast Minister Lord Stephen Carter, the interim report’s author, acknowledged it had focused more on the supply of infrastructure but suggested the final report, due in the summer, would be more balanced.

“It’s a fair criticism of the interim report that it spent longer on the supply side than the demand side,” he said. “I take the view that, broadly, the Government can have more purchase on the supply side.”

John McVay, CEO of independent TV, film, animation and new media trade body Pact, said the high-profile speakers at the event demonstrated the Government’s commitment to Digital Britain, but called for more incentives for companies looking to pioneer in the online world.

“There could be rewards for innovation, for example, which would be good for new companies. It’s something that hasn’t really been addressed or grabbed,” he said.

This story first appeared on

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