APPENDIX 3: CALL FOR EVIDENCE |
Has public policy been left behind in the media convergence
The House of Lords Select Committee on Communications,
chaired by Lord Inglewood, is announcing today an inquiry
into media convergence and its public policy impact. The Committee
invites interested organisations and individuals to submit written
evidence as part of the inquiry.
Written evidence is sought by Monday 24 September
2012. Public hearings are expected to be held in October, November
and December. The Committee aims to report to the House, with
recommendations, early in the New Year. The report will receive
a response from the Government and may be debated in the House.
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. It has been under discussion for over 10
yearsOfcom itself was a child of convergence, established
by the Office of Communications Act in 2002. Yet, only in the
last few years have converged devices become a mass market reality,
giving a great number of people access to types of contentwhich
were conventionally distributed over different platformson
one single platform, be it on their desk, table-top or in the
palm of their hands. The possibilities have naturally stimulated
media providers of all types into a search for and to experiments
with new ways of providing their content, many of which have been
straightforwardly borrowed from industries they each used to consider
neighbours. They have, as such, led to textbook examples of convergence
Newspapers are not just printed but are online and
they carry video packages with the look and feel of traditional
TV; broadcasters publish websites including text-based articles
similar to online print; scheduled programmes are broadcast but
also available on-demand, both on digital channels and a variety
of websites; network operators are participants in the market
for original content; user-generated material vies for online
audiences alongside professionally produced content; professional
and amateur bloggers share the same debates.
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?
The Committee would welcome written submissions on
the main impacts of convergence and the key areas of legitimate
public policy interest which arise. The Committee will draw on
this evidence to make forward-looking but concrete recommendations.
To assist those making written submissions, what follows are a
number of the broad themes on which the Committee would be interested
to receive evidence and opinion, as well as a number of the specific
questions which might arise from considering them. You need not
address all these areas or questions. The Committee would also
welcome any other views, and practical proposals, of which stakeholders
think the Committee should be aware. Equally, should the Committee
need to follow up on a particularly helpful piece of evidence
or one that touches on a pivotal area, they may invite individual
witnesses to submit supplementary evidence on specific points
Key, overarching issues
· Setting the scene for the inquiry, what
is the best definition of convergence?
· To what extent has convergence already
happened, or is it a process that is still underway? Has the 'dust
· What are the key changes which have occurred
and are likely to occur in its wake (in production, distribution
and consumption of content)?
· What are the major themes which emerge
with important and legitimate public interest? What are the potential
points of focus for the inquiry?
· Which roles (e.g. editorial, commissioning)
are being performed by software or by people other than those
who would have traditionally carried them out? In each case, what
effect does this have on the output of the role, and the extent
to which it falls under appropriate legal or regulatory oversight?
· How effective a response is the current
legal/regulatory regime to the new converged world? How, if at
all, do the purposes and objectives of this regime have to change
in light of convergence?
· How much do different media industries
still exist? What are the important differences between them which
have implications for any potential need for different legal/regulatory
· Is it still possible/desirable to have
different approaches for e.g. broadcasting and the internet?
· Can there be an overarching framework
of the type suggested by some? How could this work? Would it need
to take a more or less active approach than we are currently used
· Could a regulator set some broad principles
but then allow different parts of the content sector to develop
their own approaches, consistent with public expectations for
different media and platforms?
· How are the tools and mechanisms of leverage
affected by convergence? Are the current tools decreasingly relevant?
Do they need to be re-thought? What are the practical options
available if we think more needs to be done?
· To what extent can a national framework
function in an increasingly digital world? What role should Internet
providers and other intermediaries, aggregators and so on be asked
to play, and can they be brought within a UK based regulatory
framework? Do jurisdictional boundaries put these participants
in the media world beyond our reach and can nothing, therefore,
· Should there be an overall goal/approach
to policy on convergencea guiding principle?
Convergence and content standards regulation
· How much are consumers aware that the
content they engage with over the same platform may have a legacy
separate from its competitors, leaving it subject to different
· To what extent are consumers satisfied
with the different approaches? What do consumers expect and need
in the way of content standards and protection in a converged
· What are content suppliers themselves
doing in response to the mixed bag of standards they have to adhere
to, and how transparent and accountable are their varying approaches?
· What impact does convergence have on increasingly
important issues such as privacy and data protection?
· Where should such powers to intervene
be located? Should there be one regulator for all content? Should
this be separated from the regulation of competition?
Convergence and competition
· What and who are the emerging holders
of power in the new converged world? How do they relate to and
alter the traditional holders of power? What is their effect on
plurality, and how should plurality in the context of these new
players be ensured; is it better that they are diverse enough
to provide external plurality, or that they are committed to providing
access to diverse sources, offering a form of internal plurality?
How should such ends be achieved?
· How much does convergence call for a different
approach to thinking about the definition of communications markets
and competition? How should the relevant markets and market power
be defined in a rapidly changing world?
· To what extent does the packaging of services
(e.g. triple play bundles) and in particular the packaging of
delivery services with content services raise to competition?
· What are the effects of vertical integration
on the plurality of voices, and diversity of tastes represented
· What is the right regulatory structure/framework
for competition in the light of convergence? Should responsibilities
continue to be shared by a number of separate authorities or swept
up into one? How effective / relevant is this shared responsibility
· In sum, how can we secure effective competition
which will deliver great value to consumers and encourage innovation
and investment in the UK?
Convergence and content creation
· Separately from any impact it may have
on the industry as a whole, what impact, if any, does convergence
have on responsibilities for the public provision of high quality
and diverse content made in and about the UK? What, if any, impact
does it have on public provision for access to such content?
· How should such public provision be secured?
How, if at all, are the purposes of the licence fee affected by
media convergence? What incremental changes to public funding
or other forms of support might be of value?
· Can the UK continue to play a key role
globally as a content creator? What is the impact of globalisation
on the nature and economics of content? How are the economics
of production changing in light of convergence?
· What is the impact on the industry of
the need to provide 'hybrid products'? How are the skills and
practices of production changing? To what extent is suitable training
in place to equip students with all of the skills they may require?
· In sum, how best can we ensure the UK
continues to produce and consume high quality content which meets
not only consumer demand but key social and cultural goals, against
a background of economic pressures, changing consumer tastes,
and globalisation of the content industry?
2 August 2012