Ofcom news

Ofcom publishes further data on price rises in fixed term contracts consultation
Ofcom have published further data as part of its review on price rises in fixed term contracts. Ofcom’s review identified a number of issues with the effectiveness of the current system. The consultation argued contract terms should be balanced and not contain unfair surprises, and that consumers should receive the contractual option they signed up to and should therefore legitimately expect. If a provider breaches that agreement, consumers should be protected against them doing so and terms that allow price increases without giving the consumer the right to cancel without penalty were deemed to be unfair and suggested for removal.


Ofcom fines Playboy for failure to age-verify its websites
Ofcom have fined Playboy £100,000 for failing to protect children from potentially harmful pornographic material. The regulator issued the penalty after ruling that Playboy TV allowed potentially underage users to access pornographic material without having an age verification process in place. Ofcom said that the severity of the fine is due to the “serious, repeated and reckless” failures to protect minors from seeing the content.


Broadband update
Welsh Government invests 39 million to improve broadband for schools
The Welsh Government have announced the ‘Learning in Digital Wales Grant’ to support local authorities to upgrade internet connections in their schools.

The initial £27m investment will provide £7 million to Wales’ public sector internet provider, Public Sector Broadband Aggregation to upgrade its network and provide faster broadband services to schools. The remaining £20 million will be allocated to local authorities over the next two years. The funding will allow local authorities to improve connection speeds to the PSBA network to a minimum of 100Mbps for each secondary school and 10Mbps for each primary and special school by 2014. £12 million will be provided in the form of funding for the revenue costs of improved broadband services during 2013-15.


Nine rural broadband projects agreed
Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications & Creative Industries, has confirmed that nine local broadband projects have secured funding through the Government’s rural broadband programme, whilst three more will be secured this month – with procurement complete by the summer.

Communications Data Bill

Home Offices confirms that business case is being reviewed
The Home Office Minister, James Brokenshire MP, has confirmed to the House that the Government is actively reviewing the impact assessment of the draft Communications Data Bill for businesses based in, and for investment in, Britain. The Home Office originally published an assessment in June 2012 but questions over the potential cost of the Bill have been raised since, not least by the Joint Committee that reviewed the Bill in December.


Government argues that CCDP is different from IMP
In a Written Statement Brokenshire denied that the Government’s proposed Communications Data Bill was an identikit copy of the previous Government’s Intercept Modernisation Programme (IMP). The Minister explained that there were “significant differences” and that “any retained communications data would be stored by the communications service providers themselves” and not the central state.

Defamation Bill clears committee stage in the House of Lords

The Defamation Bill has completed the Committee stage in the House of Lords. Peers spent a considerable amount of time debating Clause 5 of the Bill which will subscribe a new procedure for dealing with allegedly defamatory material online.

The only relevant amendment that received approval was to change the approval process for the relevant Regulations that will set out the new online procedure in detail which will not need to be approved by Parliament.

Several Peers, e.g. Lord Mawhinney and Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town, who represented the Labour frontbench, were critical of the new procedure and argued that it provided too much protection to website operators. Others, e.g. Lord Lucas and Lord Lester were more supportive of operators but Lord Lester’s amendment that would have required claimants to prove that statements are both defamatory and unlawful did not receive support.

The Bill will be debated in full House of Lords on Tuesday 5 February and ISPA is currently preparing a response to separate Ministry of Justice consultation which seeks views on the Regulations that would implement Clause 5.

Government response to CMS Committee report on Gambling Act
The Government’s response to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee’s report on the Gambling Act 2005 has now been published.
THE DCMS report had recommended:

  • The Treasury needs to work with industry stakeholders to establish the correct level for online gambling taxation, taking into account the need to encourage companies to accept UK regulation and taxation and to discourage the formation of a black market.
  • Following the decision to regulate the online industry on a point-of-consumption basis, the Government should look to set a competitive tax rate at a level which encourages online operators to base themselves in the UK.
  • An independent review of the Gambling Commission’s expenditure should be conducted after a new system for remote licensing is in place, with a view to reducing costs and the regulatory and fees burden imposed on the industry.

In response, the Government has stated that they remain “committed to ensuring customers are protected by consistent regulation of the online market” and are proceeding with the proposed changes to the regulation of remote gambling. All gambling operators selling to the British gambling market will be licensed by the Gambling Commission; the Government have now asked the Committee to scrutinise the draft Bill published on 3 December 2012.


Next session of Support for Creative Industry inquiry to take place on 22 January
The House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee has published details of its next evidence session, to be held on Tuesday 22 January at 10:30 am, on support for the creative industries.
The witnesses to the evidence session are:

  • Jeremy Silver, Chief Executive Officer, Media Clarity
  • Peter Bradwell, Campaigner, Open Rights Group;
  • Owen Atkinson, Chief Executive Officer, Authors' Licensing & Collecting Society Ltd (ALCS),
  • Richard Mollet, Chief Executive, Publishers Association and Chair, Alliance for Intellectual Property
  • Lavinia Carey, Director General, British Video Association.

ISPA Secretariat will be monitoring and will send a summary; it can be viewed live here.


UK design industry criticise that failure to include computer science in new curriculum
Dozens of companies and personnel in the creative industries have written to the Education Secretary, Michael Gove MP, criticising the proposed EBacc qualification which will exclude, amongst others, computer science from its system. Such an omission will have “a direct impact on future talent becoming part of such a vibrant and successful industry” the signatories suggest, and urge the Secretary of State rethink the Government’s decision to exclude design, the arts and computer science from the Baccalaureate.


Leading media outlets critical of plans to implement Hargreaves
A consortium including The Associated Press, Getty Images, Reuters and The Press Association have called on the UK Government to rethink its plans to implement the copyright proposals of the Hargreaves Review.  The companies were particularly critical that the changes, introduced via the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, e.g. widening exceptions to copyright and extended collective licensing  will be implemented via secondary legislation and argue that the economic growth arguments that have been used to justify the proposals are without basis. The consortium believes that any changes to UK copyright should be industry-led and has taken legal advice on the new legislation and the manner of its introduction, resulting in it issuing a Letter Before Claim.


Seventh annual Make IT Happy competition
e-Skills UK and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Parliamentary Internet, Communications and Technology (PICTFOR) have launched the seventh annual ‘Make IT Happy’ competition. The competition provides a series of lesson plans to children aged between nine and eleven in order to teach them skills to keep safe online; from email protocol to password security. After working through the lesson plans, the pupils then have the opportunity to create and submit an info graphic that displays what they have learnt.


Government reiterates measures to protect children online
Through the UK Council on Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) the Government is working towards encouraging parents to utilise parental controls and is working with manufactures to engineer solutions that would automatically filter inappropriate material on services that are available in the public sphere.

Ed Vaizey also reminded the House that Claire Perry MP has been appointed the Prime Minister’s adviser on the sexualisation and commercialisation of childhood – she will be working alongside the Chief Executive of UKCCIS, Reg Bailey.