Flurry Of Media Regulations Due This Month; Thompson Backs Consolidation

New media regulations are like London buses – you wait for the longest time for one to come along, then two come at once. The next two weeks will be momentous, with not one but two major reviews due to be published that will reshape the future of UK digital media…

Ofcom’s review of public service broadcasting will recommend a new model to fund publicly-funded TV as the sector’s commercial broadcasters get battered by falling ad sales and audience fragmentation. In what may indicate the prevailing wind, BBC director-general Mark Thompson, writing on FT.com today, opposes top-slicing the license fee to prop up Channel 4 and instead advocates consolidation – commonly being seen as a recommendation to merge C4 and Five, though Thompson never explicitly suggests such a tie-up and it could equally refer to C4/BBC Worldwide. The BBC last month proposed sharing technology and content to save rivals £120 million a year.

Digital Britain, the report being authored by former Ofcom chief Lord Carter for the government’s Department of Media, Culture & Sport (DCMS) and Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform (BERR), is more wide-ranging, tasked with proposing a unified new framework for ensuring broadband access, salvaging DAB, funding content investment, using web content standards, figuring out digital copyright, safeguarding independent producers and securing public service TV alongside Ofcom.

Both reports are due by month’s end, though only the interim version of Digital Britain. While Ofcom’s conclusions will be straightforward to implement Carter’s will be wide-ranging and could require changes to a number of UK laws as well as the duties of media regulators, DCMS told paidContent:UK today.