Over the last 12 months, the central focus for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport has been delivering the 2012 Olympic Games. With the games widely viewed as a resounding success, the challenge now for the Department is to shift its focus onto dealing with domestic affairs.
One area that DCMS would do well to place more emphasis on is the much-vaunted roll-out of high speed broadband. There is an increasing perception that some parts of the Government believe that internet infrastructure would be “nice to have” but shouldn’t be a major national priority. This is not the case. Britain would see major economic benefits from the national roll-out of high speed broadband and without action from the Government the UK may fall behind against its international competitors.
DCMS has understood that projects like Connected Cities and rolling out superfast broadband in urban areas is as crucial as connecting the significant numbers of people and businesses without access to high speed services in rural areas. The 4G spectrum auction was undertaken, with five licences granted. However, the Treasury was not pleased to have received around one billion pounds less than projected from the sale. Regardless, the national economy will reap the long term rewards of ensuring superfast connectivity across the country.
Gambling has been a slow-burner on the policy agenda. The increasing prevalence of betting shops on high street along with the issue of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals being criticised by a number of high profile campaigns creates the sense that political action will needed relatively soon. However, there is an overwhelming sense that the liberalisation of the gambling sector following the 2005 Gambling Act only needs sensible monitoring and tweaking rather than any kind of wholesale reassessment. We should also remember that this is one of very few areas that also saw jobs moving out to the regions from Whitehall. The newly-merged Gambling Commission and National Lottery Commission was relocated to Birmingham without any difficulty whatsoever.
Finally, the localism agenda was meant to bring about a renewed local press and media industry which just has not materialised. Local TV stations will be going live soon, but will they take off with the public? Local newspapers are still withering away as the whole media sector seems to be becoming increasingly polarised, with everything becoming either national or hyperlocal but with little in-between.
Progress against the Coalition Agreement
Pledge: We will maintain the independence of the BBC, and give the National Audit Office full access to the BBC’s accounts to ensure transparency.
Status: Done – The NAO gained access to the BBC’s accounts in September 2011 when the BBC agreement was changed to reflect this and introduce the value for money arrangements. Technically the BBC retains its independence and perhaps this is best reflected by the frequent attacks it receives from various parties accusing of it bias towards all opposing sides in the argument.
Pledge: We will enable partnerships between local newspapers, radio and television stations to promote a strong and diverse local media industry.
Status: In progress – OFCOM have granted 19 phase 1 local TV licences and these are expected to start broadcasting content by the end of 2013. In terms of promoting a “strong and diverse local media industry” the local TV element is underway but there is little progress from DCMS in actively supporting local newspapers and radio – although the progress and increasing prevalence of digital radio may facilitate this in the future.
Pledge: We will maintain free entry to national museums and galleries, and give national museums greater freedoms.
Status: In progress – Free entry to national museums and galleries has been maintained. It should be noted in the eleven years that free entry has existed, the number of visitors has increased by 158% which would make it politically difficult to reverse this policy. We have not yet seen any increased freedoms for museums although we are seeing Government support in terms of providing an indemnity scheme and an anti-seizure statute to support objects coming into Britain on loan.
Pledge: We will work with the Scottish Government to deliver a successful Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014, and ensure that the 2013 Rugby League and the 2015 Rugby Union World Cups are successful. We will strongly support the England 2018 World Cup bid.
Status: In progress – The organisers of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow are on track to deliver successful Games, which open on 23 July 2014. There is a strong focus on the legacy of the Games (see www.legacy2014.co.uk) and significant learning from London 2012 is being used to support the successful delivery. The rugby league world cup 2013 kicks off on 26 October, England and Wales have previous experience of rugby league world cups and the infrastructure already exists, along with the experience, to deliver a successful competition. Likewise the rugby union world cup will be played across a number of English and Welsh stadiums that are already prepared and experienced in hosting major events. The tournament starts in September 2015, following the next general election. England’s bid for the 2018 world cup was unsuccessful, although it had support from all three political parties it fell victim to football politics rather than a lack of support from Westminster politicians.
Pledge: We will work with the Mayor of London to ensure a safe and successful Olympic and Paralympic Games in London in 2012, and urgently form plans to deliver a genuine and lasting legacy.
Status: In progress – The London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics were an undoubted success and a source of huge national pride. The Games were delivered, albeit with some well-publicised issues over certain contracts being delivered requiring the use of the Army and a huge number of volunteers to deliver the Games. The plans for the Olympic legacy include the redevelopment of the Olympic Park and the regeneration of the Lea Valley, which is all underway. Likewise some school sports initiatives are also happening now. However, an Opinium/Observer poll showed that only one in ten people think the Coalition has played its part in delivering more backing for sport in schools before and since the London Games. This has led to the Prime Minister and the Mayor of London defending their roles in securing an Olympic Legacy for London and the country as a whole. Like so many other areas, the Government’s focus on cuts has seen funding for sports, leisure centres and numerous organisations squeezed putting the legacy at significant risk.
Pledge: We will examine the case for moving to a ‘gross profits tax’ system for the National Lottery, and reform the National Lottery so that more money goes into sport, the arts and heritage.
Status: Done – Though the Government examined the case for a ‘gross profits tax’ for the National Lottery, it chose not to implement such a system. In November 2010, the Government announced that the share of lottery funding given to sport, the arts and heritage would be increased back up to 20% (the original level) with a corresponding cut in share for the Big Lottery Fund (which supports voluntary and community projects) to 40%.
Pledge: We will stop wasteful spending by National Lottery distributors by banning lobbying activities and restricting administration costs to 5% of total income.
Status: In progress – The National Lottery Commission ensures that 5% of every lottery ticket is shared with the lottery retailer for administration costs which follows the reform set out by the DCMS in early 2011. However, the Government has yet to ban lobby activities by National Lottery distributors.
Pledge: We will use cash in dormant betting accounts to improve local sports facilities and support sports clubs.
Status: In progress – In September 2011, Don Foster MP produced a report on the use of dormant betting accounts and unclaimed winnings for the DCMS Minister stating that this would be a good method for funding sports clubs and others to support the 2012 Olympic Legacy. However, this has been put on hold until the Government’s proposals for remote gambling regulation have been completed.
Pledge: We will encourage the reform of football governance rules to support the co-operative ownership of football clubs by supporters.
Status: Not achieved – Despite significant emerging grassroots pressure the Government has not yet taken any steps to address this. Despite the success of clubs such as AFC Wimbledon, the co-operative ownership of football clubs still requires a lot of hard work and dedication from fans, with the help of Supporters Direct, in order to achieve this method of ownership. A recent example would be the problems seen at Portsmouth which finally got taken over by a Supporters’ Trust after going into administration, narrowly avoiding being wound up and suffering yet another relegation in the football league.
Pledge: We will support the creation of an annual Olympic-style schools sport event to encourage competitive sport in schools, and we will seek to protect school playing fields.
Status: Done – The Sainsbury’s School Games competitions have been established; the Sport England Protecting Playing Fields programme is funded and running. Over half of the schools in England signed up to the School Games in 2012, and the first National Finals were held in the Olympic Park in London, in May 2012 and the next National Finals will be hosted in Sheffield in September 2013. DCMS are continuing to encourage more schools to become involved with the School Games and this is hoped to develop the Olympic Legacy.
Pledge: We will cut red tape to encourage the performance of more live music.
Status: Done – Live music has been exempt from the Licensing Act 2003 with the introduction of the Live Music Act which came into force in October 2012 which has reduced the restriction and regulation of live music performances.
Pledge: We will introduce measures to ensure the rapid roll-out of superfast broadband across the country. We will ensure that BT and other infrastructure providers allow the use of their assets to deliver such broadband, and we will seek to introduce superfast broadband in remote areas at the same time as in more populated areas. If necessary, we will consider using the part of the TV licence fee that is supporting the digital switch-over to fund broadband in areas that the market alone will not reach.
Status: In progress – DCMS is spending £530 million to ensure that rural communities get access to high speed broadband and another £150 million on getting super high speed broadband rolled out across a number of ‘super-connected cities’. The Growth and Infrastructure Act has introduced powers making it easier for broadband infrastructure providers to install the hardware needed to get broadband rolled out more quickly to the wider population. A recent OFCOM report placed the UK between first and third on the European Broadband scorecard across a range of areas including coverage and usage of broadband.