UK communications, technology and broadcasting minister Lord Stephen Carter will kick off the new media year next Wednesday, January 14, when he unveils his wide-ranging Digital Britain report in Westminster, recommending policy changes to modernise the media and digital-economy space.
– Telco shake-up: Already, the leaks and speculations are coming in, with Times Online reporting Carter will recommend BT’s universal service obligation, to provide every UK home with a phone line, instead be shared by all telcos, with the industry generally being asked to run a broadband line in to each home, no matter who the provider. Scrapping the onus on BT (NYSE: BT) specifically could free the incumbent telco to invest the estimated £1.5 billion necessary on next-generation broadband infrastructure.
– Help for newspapers: Separately, Guardian.co.uk says Carter is ready to burn another long-standing media law, allowing newspaper groups to buy local radio and TV stations. Existing law curtails cross-media ownership to maintain plurality – but some struggling local newspaper groups, hit by the migration of print ad spend to digital and by the economic downturn, want rules relaxed. In theory, such relaxation could see media groups own both a newspaper, an ITV (LSE: ITV) franchise and a radio station in a single local market.
– What about online?: But if traditional media are getting a bailout of sorts, what about web outfits? FT.com hears a call for support from two online entrepreneurs. Lastminute.com co-founder Brent Hoberman: