Digital Britain…kindly brought to you by advertising

Communications and Technology Minister, Stephen Carter, today finally published his eagerly awaited Digital Britain interim report. The ‘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 the2Mbs universal broadband commitment is weak, it is a significantmove. 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 questionits value to the digital economy and funding creative content. Among the 22 recommendationswithin 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.