The government plans to publish its first White Paper for the delayed Communications Bill “later this year”, according to the Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, Ed Vaizey.
Speaking at the Oxford Media Convention last week, Vaizey said that the White Paper would focus on “three key areas: connectivity, content and consumer issues”.
On connectivity, Vaizey celebrated the auction of 4G spectrum that began last week, but said that “But rolling out 4G isn’t enough”.
Spectrum has many uses and there is a real need for more spectrum to be freed up and for the spectrum available to be better used. It needs to be used more flexibly; it needs to be allocated and re-allocated faster; it needs to meet the requirements of emerging technologies. In short it needs to support businesses to let them deliver for consumers.
Vaizey’s comments also seemed to hint at the possibility that the White Paper could include provisions for the default blocking of adult content.
We are working with industry to implement our new system, where every parent will be prompted to protect their child online. Protection will automatically be on if parents don’t make choices. No other Government has taken such radical steps before. And once this is in place, Britain will have the most robust internet child protection measures of any country in the world – bar none.
To support this, next week I will be meeting with key Internet Service Providers, the Internet Service Provider Association, Reg Bailey and Claire Perry, MP – the Prime Minister’s advisor on preventing the commercialisation and sexualisation of children. We want to review what has been achieved so far – and there is a lot – and to make sure ISPs do more, particularly in terms of raising awareness of parental controls.
These comments echo those of the David Cameron in the Daily Mail last month, where he stated that “if parents just repeatedly click ‘OK’ to get through the filter set-up quickly, then filters against the most obvious threats – like pornography and self-harm sites – will be left on”.
This represents an apparent change of policy from the government’s response to the DfE’s consultation on parental controls - one which has not met with universal approval.
In December the Department for Education published its response to the consultation about online parental controls. In it they set out a pretty reasonable position, broadly supporting the idea that parents are best placed to make decisions about the protections necessary in their household, and should be supported in doing so.
Ed Vaizey’s speech goes further in explicitly saying that if parents don’t make a choice filters will be on, and suggesting that these ideas will be laid put in a White Paper. Internet filters block too much - health sites, shops, personal blogs, political sites, restaurants and bars, community forums. They do not simply catch pornography but involve businesses making subjective decisions about what is appropriate for young people of all ages, including things like ‘esoteric behaviour’.
— Open Rights Group blog