Murdoch's rivals need concrete proposals: comment

The digital TV revolution is spawning a whole new army of instant experts on so- called "conditional access", the obligation being placed on Rupert Murdoch to make his digital set box technology available to rival broadcasters. How many of these people - consultants, advisers, lawyers, regulators, technicians, politicians and journalists - really understand what they are talking about is a moot point but on one thing everyone is agreed; what happens over the next year is critically important in determining the future in this country certainly of pay-TV if not broadcast television more generally.

Today brings another flurry of submissions to the interminable consultation process on these issues. Despite the fact that any question of forcing Mr Murdoch to license his technology to rivals has already been ruled out, no one seems to have altered their position very much. ITV still insists that broadcasters must be allowed to distribute their own smart cards and manage their own subscribers; Mr Murdoch's technology should be made to accommodate these needs, ITV says. The BBC goes further; what it wants is a "dual standard box" with its own slot for BBC smart cards and its own chip for BBC interactive services. Quite what the difference is between this position and the one the Government has already ruled out is anyone's guess.

The man charged with steering a course through this minefield is Don Cruickshank, director general of Oftel. The idea is that he should regulate conditional access for digital pay-TV in much the same way as he does now for the telecoms industry, where part of his job is to ensure that rival telecoms companies get access to BT's network on fair, non-discriminatory and equal terms. That's what the Government wants to do with the Murdoch digital pay-TV system. When you think about it, this in itself is quite a concession to rival broadcasters, for Mr Murdoch developed the technology for his own digital needs, not for the greater good of others.

The big question is whether Mr Cruickshank is up to the job, for this is no public service telephone company he's dealing with here. Mr Murdoch is one of the most aggressively commercial media players in the world and he will use every tool available to him to ensure his present monopoly of analogue pay-TV is duplicated in the digital world. Mr Cruickshank's unenviable task is to ensure he doesn't.

To stand any chance of making a reasonable fist of it, however, he first needs to know what rival broadcasters want to do. Other than stamp their feet and chant "down with Mr Murdoch" there's not much evidence of them doing anything. Oh, everyone's got a strategy, no doubt about that, but where are the advanced business plans? Rival broadcasters should stop whinging about the terms of conditional access and put forward some concrete proposals for utilising it. Only then will some progress perhaps be made.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Baroness Lane-Fox warned that large companies such as have become so powerful that governments and regulators are left behind
techTech giants have left governments and regulators behind
News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
'Prison Architect' players decide the fate of inmates
tech
Life and Style
A picture taken on February 11, 2014 at people walking at sunrise on the Trocadero Esplanade, also known as the Parvis des droits de l'homme (Parvis of Human Rights), in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Recruitment Genius: Client Services Assistant

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Client Services Assistant is ...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor