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
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appeal
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Boxer Amir Khan will travel to Pakistan in bid to 'make a difference' in the wake of army school massacre
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly finalists Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge
tvLive: Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridgeface-off in the final
Sport
Ched Evans in action for Sheffield United in 2012
footballRonnie Moore says 'he's served his time and the boy wants to play football'
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Carlton Senior Appointments: Private Banking Manager - Intl Bank - Los Angeles

$200 - $350 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: Managing Producer – Office...

Carlton Senior Appointments: San Fran - Investment Advisor – Ind Advisory Firm

$125 - $225 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: San Fran - Investment Advi...

Sheridan Maine: Commercial Finance Manager

Up to £70,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...

Sheridan Maine: Regulatory Reporting Accountant

Up to £65,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...

Day In a Page

Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture