On May 16 2011, Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, asked citizens and those who work in fixed or mobile communications,
television, radio, online publishing, video games, and other digital and creative content industries for responses to an open letter [PDF] reviewing communications in the digital age.

He also invited responses via this video, explaining that a review of the Communications Act would occur during the second part of this Parliament.

Hunt’s aim for this review is to:

Strip away unnecessary red tape and remove barriers to growth. The wider public interest will underpin the way we address these issues.

Responses were asked for by 30 June 2011, which we would then be published in summary alongside the Green Paper. The government stated that all submissions received would be fed into the Review.

I was kindly asked by Gina Fegan of the D-Media Network to join with others on 27 June for two hours to put together a response from SMEs and independent digital content producers. In all, about twelve of us met at BAFTA representing games, film, video, interactive/multi-platform content design and mobile content production. There were probably a few writers in the mix too.

During the discussions solicitor Christine Reid marvellously kept us abreast of the law, processes and implications, reminding us of the existing legislation and explaining the potential impact of the Hargreaves Report [PDF] – which recently reviewed intellectual property in the UK – published just after Hunt’s open letter.

The discussions were fairly wide ranging, and robust, but given the time we came up with quite a number of recommendations that all of us were happy to sign our names to.

The open letter by Hunt asked readers to review a number of specific questions of which we tackled the three or four that seemed most relevant to SMEs and independent content producers. As follows:

Q10. Are there disproportionate regulatory barriers to investment in content? If so, what are they and how can increased investment in UK content production be encouraged?

Q11. Should the core focus of public service broadcasting be on original UK content?

Q12. What barriers are there to innovation in new digital media sectors, including video games, telemedicine, local television and education?

Q13. Where has self- and co-regulation worked successfully and what can be learnt from specific approaches? Where specific approaches haven’t worked, how can the framework of content regulation be made sufficiently coherent and not create barriers to growth, but at the same time protect citizens and enable consumer confidence?

Quite a lot to consider.

Here’s the response in full.

What happens next?
The stated timeline:

Work undertaken throughout 2011 will result in the publication of a Green Paper by the end of the year setting out options for a regulatory framework to support the communications sector.
A consultation about the proposals in the Green Paper will inform a White Paper, and a draft bill which will be completed by mid-2013.
We intend to have the legislation in place by the end of this Parliament.

Put on your thinking caps and get ready for the next stage
Whilst we wait for the next stage it would be great to hear your thoughts and ideas. There’s lots this particular response wasn’t able tackle or get it’s teeth into, so have a look at the full list of questions in the open letter [PDF], if you have time.

I’m also sure that once the Green Paper is published that many people will want to add their further thoughts – so perhaps think back to the work of the Digital Britain Unconferences, and consider how we might get a wide ranging set of voices that really represent citizens, those less heard as well as SMEs, producers, agencies, businesses that rely on communications and more from across the whole of the UK.

UPDATE 10/10/2011: I’m attempting to discover the green paper release date. When I find out I’ll add it here.

UPDATE 10/10/2011: The folks who run the DCMS Twitter account have got back to my query incredibly quickly, which is much appreciated. They state that at the moment they can’t be much more precise than the end of the year with a possible move to January to avoid the Christmas rush.
DCMS Twitter response

To me that seems to say that January is more likely, but you never know. Keep your eyes open. The official hashtag for the review is #commsreview although it doesn’t seem to be being used extensively yet.

UPDATE 11/10/2011: During a House of Commons debate the Home Office Minister stated today that the Communications Act Review Green Paper is due out next spring, rather than the end of this year or January.

UPDATE 17/10/2011:
I have now received and email response from DCMS which reads as follows:

Our Ref: 188549/NP/14
Dear Ms Corrick
Many thanks for your enquiry about the Communications Review, and the publication of the Green Paper.
We are now working to a publication deadline for this Green paper of mid-January (week beginning 16 January).
I hope this information is of help to you.

Yours sincerely

Ministerial Support Team

Department for Culture, Media and Sport |2-4 Cockspur Street |London |SW1Y 5DH