A new inquiry by the Lords Communications Committee is announced today, looking at the issue of media convergence, and how public policy may need to do more to adapt and reform in its wake.
Media convergence refers to the phenomenon of traditionally distinct media activities coming to overlap, and therefore to a process which is dissolving the frontiers between previously separate industries. In many ways convergence is an exciting process to watch, shifting the tectonic contours of the media world, establishing opportunities for new businesses, new services, revenue models and so on. It is also, however, creating some pressing issues for public policy.
To date, through a mix of regulation and public funding, we have created a highly successful broadcast ecology in the UK, which brings together the best of commercial enterprise and public service values for both consumers and citizens. It is an ecology in which, by and large, publicly accepted standards are understood and upheld, and a high level of quality and public trust has been secured. Can we (and indeed should we) be thinking of how to create similar outcomes for a potentially much more anarchic converged world, in which the regulatory levers may be weaker, economic models threatened, and the main participants much less attuned to UK sensibilities and interests? The Internet has opened up access to lots of innovative and exciting content, but also poses some real threats to quality, social values, trust, privacy etc, and is often dominated by intermediaries and suppliers from outside the UK. While some can navigate its highways with confidence, other more vulnerable people may need help, guidance and protection. How do we help encourage the good things to develop, while addressing the risks?
Lord Inglewood talks about the Committee’s new inquiry in a YouTube video available above.
The Committee welcome evidence on questions including:
- Is it still possible to have different regulatory approaches to different media industries e.g. broadcasting and the internet?
- To what extent are consumers satisfied with the different approaches?
- How can effective competition be ensured when services are increasingly being packaged together?
- What is the impact on the industry of the need to provide ‘hybrid products’?