Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Why levies make sense

By Edel Brosnan

Instead of top-slicing the licence fee, why not fund quality digital content with a levy on ISPs and telecoms companies?

From the NUJ website, on Monday 22nd of June :
The UK government must move the focus of its Digital Britain strategy from infrastructure to quality content.

That was the message delivered to a conference of academics, campaigners and industry representatives, organised by the Federation of Entertainment Unions.

Leading academic Professor Patrick Barwise of the London Business School raised concerns over the government’s focus on pipes rather than people, calling on ministers to look at how small levies on telecoms and technology companies could raise large sums to support the quality content on which they depend.

In particular he highlighted the failure of the Digital Britain report to properly investigate the use of alternative funding models for public service broadcasting outside of the BBC.

He said: “As things stand, neither main political party appears even to have considered industry levies as a way of ensuring the survival of PSB, although – as I’ll show shortly – once one starts looking at the numbers, it’s clear that such a levy ought to be a large part of the answer.

“The closest either main party has come so far is the Digital Britain proposal of a 50p/month levy on fixed phone lines. But the aim is to earmark that to cover part of the cost of universal, or near-universal, superfast broadband. The benefits of superfast broadband are, in my view, highly questionable.”

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