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Hunt axes communications green paper, opts for seminars instead

By | Published on Friday 8 June 2012

Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt, the bumbling fool in charge of the government’s culture ministry who just won’t resign, despite now having the political credibility of a rotting banana thanks to his monumental mishandling of News Corp’s BSkyB takeover bid, has scrapped plans to publish a communications green paper. Presumably he’s far too busy clinging onto his job, even though David Cameron’s unwillingness to sack his incompetent buddy sort of makes a mockery of the Coalition government and, arguably, the entire democratic process. But anyway, we digress.

The green paper would have kicked off the drafting of a new Communications Act, which will reform the way the British broadcasting and internet sectors are regulated, amongst other things. A new act is still planned, however, with the culture ministry promising a series of ‘policy seminars’ to feed into a white paper early next year, which will ultimately lead to new legislation.

Justifying the change in its plans regards communications law reform, the Department Of Culture, Media & Sport said it no longer believed a “root and branch” reform of communications regulation is required, so the seminar route was more appropriate than putting initial ideas formally down in writing. The seminars will take place from July to September.

The radio industry will be more pissed off by the backtrack on the green paper than the music business, it hoping for an overhaul of the rules governing terrestrial radio services, which many radio station owners believe are too strict given they are now competing with so many new rivals on digital networks and the internet.

Though the obligations of internet service providers in policing piracy is also likely to be covered by any new Communications Act, which obviously does interest the music industry, especially given the fact that the ISP-involving anti-filesharing three-strikes system in theory set up by 2010’s Digital Economy Act is yet to actually go live.

The radio industry is also likely to use any review of broadcasting laws to call for an axing of the public performance royalty requirement on offices, shops and bars which play out music radio on their premises, which means said establishments need licences from royalty bodies PRS and PPL even though the radio stations have already paid royalties on the music they air. So the music industry could both win and lose from any new broadcasting legislation.

Quite what form the ‘policy seminars’ will take, and how the music industry will be involved, remains to be seen. The Communications Act review will be ongoing alongside the government’s current consultation on copyright law. The music industry also waits with baited breath for the latest report from media regulator OfCom on exactly how that mythical three-strikes system will work.