Tag Archives: Politics

Why a tax on online advertising makes no sense

There has been a fair amount of recent media coverage and comment about a report – “Creativity and Internet” – commissioned by the French Culture Minister which includes a proposal to levy the online advertising revenues of the likes of Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft and AOL. The aim of the levy is to raise money for the French creative industry.  Whilst it’s not clear as to whether the French Government will seriously consider this proposal (although President Sarkozy has welcomed the report), Google has already publicly opposed the idea stating that it could “slow down innovation” and that it is “disproportionate.”

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Real change or empty rhetoric?

Earlier this week Prime Minister Gordon Brown delivered an interesting speech to the Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) conference in Oxford.  He talked of the power of today’s technology in organising and uniting communities around the world on particular issues, such as climate change, the financial crisis or matters of foreign policy, and said that this citizen empowerment meant that we could create a “truly global society”, that foreign policy “can never be the same again” and could “no longer be run by elites”.

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A BBC licence fee for a digital age?

The Government – pioneered by the departing Communications Minister, Lord Carter – today unveiled its final Digital Britain report.

There is welcome acknowledgement of the contribution digital advertising – in particular targeted advertising – will make in helping to monetise online content.  The Government also attaches significant importance to self-regulation and education in promoting transparency and protecting internet users’ online privacy, supporting the IAB’s Good Practice Principles for behavioural advertising, as well as www.youronlinechoices.co.uk, the new portal to help educate users.  There is also encouraging news in the appointment of Martha Lane-Fox, one of the pioneers of digital commerce, as the Government’s digital inclusion champion.

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Transparency, choice and education is the way forward for online privacy

A parliamentary body of MPs and Peers – the All Party Parliamentary Group on Communications – is to conduct an inquiry into internet traffic, including behavioural advertising and online privacy.  The Group asks whether the Government should intervene over behavioural advertising or whether it should leave it to users, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and websites.  The Group also asks whether there is a need for any new initiative to deal with online privacy.  The Group has sought ‘written evidence’ from interested parties and will be meeting with key stakeholders in mid-June.

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Election 2010: The Digital Media Battle

We should all welcome Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s return to YouTube this week.  He was criticised by Cabinet colleagues (aka our ‘Communities’ Minister, Hazel Blears) and widely ridiculed by the media for his ‘MP expenses’ video late last month.  But Brown knows only too well that we now live in a world of 24/7 digital media and he needs to use these tools to get his message across directly to the British people (he’s doing something right – apparently the 10 Downing Street twitter site is the UK’s most favourite).  Of course, Parliament is the hub of our democracy and policy statements should be made first in the ‘chamber’ (but few people watch or listen to proceedings).  Door-to-door campaigning is very personal but it is also time-consuming and effective on a one-to-one basis.  So, as the political fighting (and in-fighting) intensifies in the run up to the European and local elections next month, another ‘war’ is beginning to emerge: the politics of digital media.

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Plumbing, poetry, pirates and…people?



Last Friday’s Digital Britain Summit at The British Library was themed as an event to discuss the ‘plumbing’ (ie broadband infrastructure) and ‘poetry’ (ie the content) – this is Lord (Stephen) Carter’s very own analogy.  Its importance to the Government was on show for all to witness: four senior government ministers, including the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.  He, Culture Secretary Andy Burnham and Business Secretary Lord (Peter) Mandelson all made key note speeches and the author of the Digital Britain project himself, Lord Carter, was a panelist.


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Digital Britain…kindly brought to you by advertising (part 2)

Over the last few months I’ve written a number of blogs about the Digital Britain project, the Government’s blueprint for the UK’s digital economy.  This kicked off last November with a blog arguing that the internet will help the UK economy out of its current recession, followed in late January with the first in the series of ‘Digital Britain…kindly brought to you by advertising’ blogs (this is the second!) which highlighted the Government’s underplaying of the role and value of advertising to the digital economy in its interim report.  In late February, I talked of the ‘green shoots of opportunity’ and the Government’s failure – in its interim report – to recognise the UK as one of the best places in the world to do ‘digital business’.


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The green shoots of opportunity


Government ministers have, in the past, got into hot water for merely mentioning the words ‘green shoots’ when times are tough.  We all know the UK economy is officially in recession.  However, unlike Starbucks’ Howard Schultz, I won’t be talking the economy down.  I fear the wrath and another four-letter outburst from business secretary, Lord Mandelson, if I did so!  Times are indeed tough and every day we read and hear about another business shedding jobs.  Yesterday, Bradford-based Stylo, owner of Barratts shoes, announced it was closing 220 stores and cutting 2,500 jobs.


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Digital Britain…kindly brought to you by advertising

Communications and Technology Minister, Stephen Carter, today finally published his eagerly awaited Digital Britain interim reportThe ‘talk’ and speculation in the run-up to publication had been about the BBC and public service broadcasting/publishing and ‘broadband for all’.  Would the Government suggest a collaboration between the commercial BBC Worldwide and cash-strapped Channel 4? (it does but doesn’t rule out other options) and will there be high-level commitments for broadband access? (there are). Despite criticism from opposition political parties that the 2Mbs universal broadband commitment is weak, it is a significant move.  It is also welcome that the report suggests unleashing mobile operators from spectrum licence agreements encouraging them to do their bit in delivering this commitment.  This could enable us to access content and services wherever, however and whenever.  The Government hasn’t ruled out giving public money to help this universal broadband commitment either.  The final report is due in the summer, but this interim document states the importance of online advertising to the UK digital economy: “Britain has the highest proportion of internet advertising than any developed economy”.  However it does seem to question its value to the digital economy and funding creative content.  Among the 22 recommendations within the 86-page interim report is an action to “examine measures needed to address the challenges for digital content, including opportunities for providing further support to foster UK creative ambition and alternative funding mechanisms to advertising revenues”. Online will soon be the largest advertising medium in the UK.  It pays for free content and services: from search engines to social networks.  It’s no surprise that the Government believes that a “successful Britain is a digital Britain”, playing a vital role in dragging the economy out of recession.  However, given this and our world-beating position in online advertising, it seems slightly bizarre that it remains to be convinced as to whether advertising is the right model for the digital age.  Nevertheless, the point of an interim report is for discussion and debate.  Clearly there’s plenty of this to do.

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"Let us be the generation that reshapes our economy to compete in the digital age"

These are the words of Barack Obama who, next Tuesday, will be inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States of America in what is one of the greatest spectacles in the political calendar (although it only happens once every four years).  We all know that President Obama has some pretty pressing issues in his in-tray.  However, in running for the highest office, we have seen him probably say more about the internet than any other Presidential (or perhaps even President) candidate in modern times.  We all know that Obama used the internet and digital media as a campaigning and fund-raising tool like no other politician in history (he wants to keep his Blackberry despite being told it poses security risks).  It gives us a pretty good clue that internet policy issues will be quite high up the political agenda.  So – as the President-elect recruits a dog, chef and interior designer in preparation to move his family into the White House – let’s have a closer look at what an Obama Presidency will mean for the internet, and what the potential implications will be for us policy wonks in the UK.

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