To Manchester, where I had been invited to liven up a Conservative Conference Fringe discussion on digital policy…
Posts Tagged ‘policy’
What happens when competition watchdogs lose their teeth – and roll over to have their tummies tickled? Via the influential chair of the Commons Culture Media and Sport Select Committee, John Whittingdale MP, comes a very interesting story today. Whittingdale relates a conversation with John Fingleton, the head of the Office of Fair Trading. The MP asked if the agency had looked at the question of Google’s power in the marketplace.
Google has a dominant market share of paid search advertising, effectively setting the price of doing business on the internet for small companies. The conversation took place at around the time it became known that the European Commission began to probe the company, and its customers, in response to a series of complaints. The FTC opened its own investigation this summer.
“The head of the OFT told me that Google was a fantastic organisation, a fast developing company, and should be applauded,” the MP said.
The job of a business regulator, we hardly need point out, is not to swoon like a gushing schoolgirl delighted that a boy band star has swept into town. Fingleton had also offered his views – although a little more circumspectly – to The Guardian newspaper, in November 2009.
Lib Dems are appealing to the vital online pirate vote at this year’s party conference, putting the membership on collision course with LibDem ministers in the coalition government. In a new IT policy paper called “Preparing The Ground”, a team of party activists led by Cambridge MP Julian Huppert calls for the Digital Economy Act to be gutted of its copyright measures. It also threatens new legislation to ensure all “traffic flows at the same speed”, and wants the IR35 contractor tax suspended.
Senior party figures speaking on condition of anonymity expressed dismay at the proposals. The LibDems are in government for the first time in 70 years, and have attempted to leave behind the Party’s old “sandal-wearing” image as a haven for single-issue-fanatics.
A potentially incendiary EU report released today recommends making changes to the Berne Convention – and creating several new layers of bureaucracy in order to deal with the digitisation of cultural stuff. Creators would have to “opt-in” to a new database before getting their rights, which have historically been guaranteed by Berne signatories since 1886.
Berne is administered by the UN quango World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and changes are made only every few generations – it was last amended in 1979. Undaunted, a committee of “wise men” (actually, just three people) reporting to the EU’s Information Society initiative i2010 Digital Libraries Initiative has recommended “some form of registration as a precondition for a full exercise of rights” [Our emphasis].
The problem? Berne establishes most parts of copyright as an automatic, global right. Unravelling this would undermine the entire treaty – which isn’t likely.
The Strategic Advisory Board for Intellectual Property is to be abolished. The Coalition has decided that dismantling copyright is a task that the Intellectual Property Office is quite capable of performing without assistance, and has folded SABIP’s duties back into the IPO.
SABIP was founded in 2008 in the wake of the Gowers Report, as a quasi think-tank focusing on copyright policy. New technology has allowed many more people to record and distribute material – “everyone’s a creator” – we’re told, and this hasn’t gone unnoticed. From publishers such as News International to giant web data aggregators such as Facebook, the pressure to weaken the individual’s rights remains enormous. All are eager to exploit amateur material, and drive down the cost of professional material.
Calder invites us to have a giggle, but really it’s not a bad list at all, and compared with the (cough) ‘futurists’ who have come and gone since, Calder and the participants did a good job. Alvin Toffler was repackaging these ideas, particularly mass amateurisation, many years later. As are thousands of Web 2.0 consultants today.
Read more at The Register
Emerging briefly from their underground volcano lair, the shadowy A.C.T.A. organisation has released their latest list of demands. It’s another relentless march towards global New World Order governance.
Actually, that’s how a few bloggers and even professional hacks have portrayed it. But what’s wrong with this picture?
Read more at The Register
Obama has created an exquisite problem by hiring so many senior executives from Google – some of the Oompa Loompas don’t seem to realise they no longer work for the company. Now a Congressman has called for an enquiry.
The issue was made apparent when a trail of correspondence by administration official Andrew McLaughlin was exposed recently. McLaughlin is Obama’s deputy CTO – a freshly minted post, with CTO meaning either Citizens Twitter Overlord, or Chief Technology Officer – we believe it’s the latter. He was previously Google’s chief lobbyist, or ‘Head of Global Public Policy and Government Affairs’.
McLaughlin’s contacts were also exposed. In an irony to savour, the exposure was by Google itself, as it introduced its privacy-busting Buzz feature in February. As our Cade pointed out, it would be hard to imagine a better Google story.
Digital radio isn’t great and the public doesn’t want it, but you’re going to get it anyway. So recommends the House of Lords Communications Committee today.
90 per cent of the UK listens to radio, and 94 per cent of listeners are happy with what they’ve got. The Lords accept most of the points made by critics of DAB and the Digital Switchover, noting: “The gradual rate of take-up of digital radio services does not suggest that consumers are enticed by the reception quality, extra functionality or the digital-only content so far available.”
How about something better, then?
“To go back on this policy now would risk turning confusion into an utter shambles” they write in a new report (pdf).
So the Lordships recommend everyone get on with the Digital Switchover. They advise implementing the Digital Radio Working Group’s (DRWG) recommendation to build out DAB coverage so it reaches 94 per cent of the population, but don’t say who how it should be funded. Both the BBC and the commercial broadcasters want extra cash for this. But the Lords duck this issue.
Punters will be browbeaten into buying a digital set, when an analogue one would do, we’re told:
“The Government must ensure that advice goes to retailers and the public that when purchasing radios, consumers should purchase sets that include a digital tuner.”
That’s the stick. But there may be a carrot. The Lords back a cash-for-trannies scheme, so perfectly good FM radios can be traded in.
“The Government should encourage the industry to devise a sensible scrappage scheme, recognising that the industry, manufacturers and retailers, will benefit heavily from the new sales generated by digital switchover.” They also advise “the Government inform consumers as soon as possible as to how the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) regulations will operate for disposal of analogue radios”.
Another recommendation is for car manufacturers to fit a multistandard chip, ASAP. It isn’t clear whether multistandard chip here means digital and analogue, or the different flavours of digital radio: DAB, DAB+, DVB-T too.
Anyone hoping a timetable for DAB+ implementation would be part of the deal will be disappointed. The Lordships say too much has been invested by the public in DAB, but advise a timetable for multistandard radios to be produced. In other words, the public will have to invest even more in obsolete radios.
It’s everything the DAB lobby could have hoped for – short of a blank cheque.
Imagine an unpopular, impotent, and fragile UK Government, trying to make political capital out of a looming crisis. To avoid being embarrassed by criticism of its shallow policies, it appoints an independent panel of experts, to which it defers controversial decisions. Now imagine that the panel proposes measures from which its members and their associates will directly benefit.
It couldn’t happen here, you may think. Scandal and resignations would surely follow. Who could possibly allow vested interests to profit from the legislation they are instrumental in creating?
This week, an independent panel of experts called the Climate Change Committee (CCC) published the details of its recent advice to Parliament that the UK should reduce its CO2 emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.
There’s no doubt there’s money to be made from this new legislation, which was passed last week. A recent conference, given the title ‘Cashing in on Carbon’ was, in its own words, “aimed squarely at investment banks, investors and major compliance buyers and is focused on how they can profit today from an increasingly diverse range of carbon-related investment opportunities”.
…Read more at The Register.