Select Committee on Communications Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 2220 - 2221)


Mr Richard Hooper CBE

  Q2220  Baroness Eccles of Moulton: Focussing back on the news and the influence of the internet overtaking all the other forms of access to news for the citizen, Google, for instance, which now puts out the most tremendous amount of news, all of it comes from other sources and every single news item that Google puts out refers the viewer back to one of the traditional sources. In a way there is a huge interdependence so far as the news is concerned between the internet and traditional sources.

  Mr Hooper: Yes, I think the great challenge of all traditional media companies is how you manage the transition. The print media do not die—they might in 50 years' time—but they are losing some share of key advertising and so it is up to the print media to work out how to get their presence on the net and get them working together. The irony of Google to me, as an old television broadcaster type of person, is that this is 1955 all over again; you are looking at something in the net and up whacks an advert that you did not ask for which you look at as part of the action of getting the information. That was commercial television in the 1950s and commercial radio in America in the 1920s so it is actually not that new in one sense. Now it is more targeted and it is cleverer but there is still an element of "I want that information and in order to get it free I have to watch this ad".

  Q2221  Lord Maxton: Exactly on that point whether we should be looking at regulating the ISPs now tracking people's usage of the internet, which is what some of them are now proposing to do, so they can sell their advertising according to your usage. Do you think that is something we should be looking at and regulating? I am asking that because you are an expert witness.

  Mr Hooper: I think privacy issues within the internet are probably one of the dominant public policy concerns of the age. We are dealing with a technology that can hunt me down in my office at home and know where I have travelled and I think that has serious privacy issues. I am not an expert on it but I suggest that might be an excellent theme for another Communications inquiry.

  Chairman: I think we will try to finish this one first! Mr Hooper, thank you very, very much for coming. You have put your evidence extremely clearly and it has been extremely valuable. We appreciate it very much indeed.

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