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[25 MAY 99] UNIVERSITY OF WARWICK PRESS RELEASE
New Research Into Digital Technology

Digital technology is driving terrestrial, satellite, cable TV and the Internet to converge - but new research published this month suggests we should be paying more attention to attempts by governments and regulators in Britain, Europe and the US to cope with this convergence. The research is published in a book of ten papers entitled Convergence in European Digital TV Regulation edited by Chris Marsden of the University of Warwick's Law School and Stefaan Verhulst of Oxford University.

The debate on how regulators should handle digital convergence has been stoked up by the Green Paper on the Convergence of the Telecommunications, Media and Information Technology Sectors, and the Implications for Regulation, a European Commission discussion document released on 3 December 1997, which led to an acrimonious eighteen month debate just finished in spring 1999.

If the Green Paper's recommendations were to be implemented the UK could be faced with amalgamating the Independent Television Commission (which deals with content issues for non-BBC channels) with OFTEL. The new body would be faced with trying to blend the regulation of culture and content - the responsibility of the ITC, with consumer orientated regulation - the job of OFTEL. Chris Marsden, one of the editors of the new book, agrees that the current system of regulation is unsustainable in the long term due to communications convergence, but he is concerned that the debate on what should replace this system has not yet dealt with the real issues:

  • Content and Carriage: How does program content co-exist with consumer led regulation, in issues such as UK digital "Box Wars" or what FCC contributors Pepper and Levy term "Portal Combat"?
  • Digital Gatekeepers: How will the set-top technology allowing consumers to access digital services be programmed, funded and its powerful ‘gatekeepers’ and ‘bottlenecks’ be regulated?

The book will be launched at two events:-

  • London Press Launch at the Freedom Forum, Stanhope House, Stanhope Place, W2 at: 5.30pm on 2 June, with Carole Tongue MEP and the editors;
  • at Scarman House at the University of Warwick on 3 June at 6pm, the first evening of the OECD co-organised conference "Communications Regulation in the Global Information Society"

NOTES: The book entitled Convergence in European Digital TV Regulation is published by Blackstone Press, ISBN:1 85431 990 6. The contributors are: Chris Marsden, University of Warwick; Stefaan Verhulst, Oxford University; Drs Robert Pepper & Jonathan Levy, Federal Communications Commission, Washington, Dr Beth Simone Noveck, Yale Law School, Newhaven, USA; Prof. Dr Wolf Sauter, University of Groningen, The Netherlands; Julian McGougan, ITC Secretariat; Campbell Cowie, consultant; Carole Tongue MEP, Socialist Group Co-ordinator, Media Committee, European Parliament; Dr Gillian Doyle, University of Stirling; Dr Thomas Gibbons, University of Manchester.

For further details contact:
Chris Marsden, School of Law, University of Warwick  01203 523025
Peter Dunn Press Officer  01203 523708

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CWN / Education / University of Warwick / Press Release / 25 May 99

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