Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Communications policy for central planners

If you want to see an incoherent, centrally planned vision of communications policy, tasting strongly of socialism, pilfering everyone to benefit the few, then look at the UK's latest communications white paper - the Digital Britain report.

It proposes a new tax on fixed telephone lines to subsidise broadband to rural areas. Why should anyone have broadband subsidised to them? Who knows? Books aren't subsidised, but accessing videos, music and porn seems far more important to the British Labour Party. Why subsidise rural areas? You may well ask, given people in rural areas face far cheaper land and housing costs, little traffic congestion and no parking fees, so shouldn't they all pay to subsidise housing and parking in cities? It's ridiculous of course. If you enjoy open spaces, cheap land and the quietness of the countryside, it is no wonder there aren't a range of communications networks connecting you. However, taxpayers are to ensure 2 Mb/sec access to all households - broadband socialism, and it's disgusting.

Secondly, part of the TV licence fee is to be given to commercial stations to fund childrens' programming and subsidise regional commercial news programmes. Again, nonsense. For starters, commercial TV should succeed or fail on its merits. If regional commercial news programmes cannot remain viable, they should close. Bear in mind that the BBC provides regional TV news fully funded from the licence fee already, which if ended might save regional commercial television. A better solution would be to announce the TV licence fee will be abolished, and the BBC will need to find new sources of funds, such as subscriptions, donations and sponsorship. Labour wont dare ask the question - why should people be forced to pay for ANY broadcasters?

Thirdly, FM and AM radio broadcasts, which are accessible to virtually all households, are to be switched off by 2015 in favour of the inferior digital DAB standard, which has quite low takeup. In other words, the government is willing to make almost all radios in the country utterly useless, and refuses to grant property rights in broadcast radio spectrum. Most people are quite happy with FM broadcasting, and most broadcasters get all they need from FM and AM. If broadcasters are willing to buy property rights in FM and AM frequences on the open market, then let them.

In short, stop trying to fucking plan an industry which exists to serve what people want. The internet took off without government interference, and continues to thrive. Indeed the development of broadband infrastructure is damaged by the continued local loop unbundling of BT's network, which is stifling the development of competing networks beyond the incumbent (and barely viable) Virgin Media cable TV operation.

Set commercial broadcasting completely free, let it own broadcast frequencies and stop telling it what to do. Privatise Channel 4, and start to break up the BBC into pieces.

Sadly though, Britain is so damned socialist, it thinks nobody should ever pay for what they use, but everyone else should pay for what they don't!

1 comment:

ZenTiger said...

It's positively weird and stupid to mandate that the FM and AM radio bands be left soundless.

Government has got too stupid, and the option of voting out a bunch of politicians that rubber stamp the bureaucratic machine or succumb to lobby groups trying to control the airwaves is woefully inefficient.

When things break, they'll break big time. Hopefully, the guillotines will not be operating 24/7, although this is the way it's heading.