The Government needs to “think big” when it publishes its forthcoming Communications Bill, and be ambitious about what one of the UK’s fastest growing sectors can achieve, the CBI has said.
The UK is already a major global player in communications, with a sector worth at least £50 billion a year to the economy in value terms, and the potential to grow its annual exports by more than 8.7% between now and the end of the decade.
However, major economies as diverse as Singapore, Sweden and China are investing in technology to compete, and the UK cannot afford to take its hard-earned position for granted.
In a new report, called Blazing a trail – the UK communications sector in a global economy, the CBI says the communications industry should play a key part in rebalancing the economy. To support this, the Government must ensure that regulation is suitable for a dynamic industry, encourage competition in the communications sector, maximise export opportunities, and ensure the UK has the infrastructure it needs to compete on a global stage.
Dr Neil Bentley, CBI Deputy Director-General, said, “The UK is known around the world for its cultural exports, whether it’s Adele topping the charts in 18 countries around the world, or Downton Abbey being screened in over 200 territories.
“But the UK’s communications sector is worth much more than its high profile successes. It has the potential to grow its exports faster than most other sectors over the coming decade, and can therefore play a key role in rebalancing our economy and reducing our reliance on domestic consumption.
“That’s why we need the Government to think big in its forthcoming Communications Bill. Our communications sector needs a framework in place that will enable and encourage innovation, with a clear and consistent approach to regulations.”
The CBI’s recommendations include:
• Ensuring that regulations are supportive of convergence, are targeted at a clear outcome and work with the grain of consumer demand
• A thorough review of the obligations placed on Public Service Broadcasters, to ensure that they remain relevant in a convergent digital world
• The creation of a (non-binding) advisory panel, with representatives from industries within the communications sector meeting regularly to achieve progress on difficult issues.
Dr Bentley added, “The Communications Bill is an important piece of the puzzle, but outside of the Bill, there is a lot that the Government can do to maximise the potential that the sector has to help rebalance the economy and stimulate growth.”
Further CBI recommendations include:
• The Government expanding on its current ambitions for broadband, to consider a new, longer-term aspiration to have the best broadband economy in the world, with measures of success that go beyond simplistic download speeds
• Ensuring that OFCOM is focused on promoting the UK communications sector in international markets, alongside its focus on consumer protection, to maximise the potential of the UK communications sector on a global stage
• BBC Worldwide playing a role as a key facilitator and partner of smaller content providers seeking opportunities abroad.