Government outlines digital economy bill

The government has outlined its digital economy bill, including provisions for tackling illegal file-sharing and new powers for Ofcom over ITV regional news.

Announced today in the Queen's speech, the bill also covered broadband network rollout plans, along with the switchover to digital radio in 2015 and tough new classifications to prevent children getting hold of violent video games.

The legislative proposal, which will be officially unveiled in Parliament tomorrow, further included Lord Mandelson's controversial approach to tackling online piracy by cutting off or throttling the internet connections of persistent file-sharers.

Echoing Ofcom's recent report, the government also backed new provisions for freeing up the rules governing cross-media ownership of newspapers, TV licences and radio stations in local areas.

The bill further gave the media regulator powers to appoint and finance independently-financed news consortia (IFNC) to take over ITV regional news in the UK. However, it stopped short of backing a top-slicing of the BBC licence fee to fund this arrangement, instead stipulating that funding measures would be agreed following a completion of IFNC pilot schemes in 2012.

A notable absentee from the bill was the £6 annual levy on all UK landlines, which was a surprise addition to the Digital Britain report in June.

The measure, designed to generate around £175m towards high-speed broadband rollout projects, will instead be included in the pre-Budget report on December 9. The headline Digital Britain pledge to provide broadband of a minimum speed of 2Mbps to all UK households by 2012 was also not included as it does not require legislation.

Another aspect potentially to be included in the pre-budget statement next month will be the long-called for cultural tax break for the £1bn UK video games industry to help it compete in the global market.

Elsewhere, the digital economy bill outlined a new regulatory framework for the switchover to digital radio by 2015, along with changes to Channel 4's remit to cover public service content on all of its media platforms. Full details of the bill will be published on Friday.