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Tessa Jowell: Between Culture and Commerce

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND.-Tessa Jowell, Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport speech to the EU Broadcasting Conference: Between Culture and Commerce:

"It gives me great pleasure to be here today in Liverpool - European Capital of Culture for 2008. And I want to welcome you, on behalf of the Council of Ministers and the European Commission, to this European Audiovisual Conference.

When the Television Without Frontiers Directive first came into being, at the end of the Eighties, I think it's fair to say that it referred to a world far-removed from the one we live in today.

Back in the 80s the UK had only had four analogue TV channels, VHS was winning the consumer battle against its Beta-Max rival, no one had heard of DVD's and the satellite TV was going to be brought in by the BSB squarial, if any of you here remember them!

But by the start of the 1990s, a technological revolution was underway.

Talking about a revolution

In 1985, barely 13% of the UK population owned a computer. Today, 13 million families in the UK are connected to the internet, and more than half of them have broadband.

Fast forwarding a few years, to 1997 and around 23% of people in the UK owned a mobile phone. Just eight, short years later, there are 61 million mobiles actively being used and UK companies such as Vodafone and O2 dominate the global market.

So, we are talking about a revolution in the way that we communicate, inform and entertain.

Digital switchover

Just last week, at the Royal Television Society Conference in Cambridge, I set out our vision for a Digital Britain, by switching over fully to digital TV by 2012.

So there have never been more channels, more services or more choice for consumers. And as a result, there has never been a more complex set of issues facing broadcasting and telecoms regulators in the EU.

The Television Without Frontiers Directive, revised in 1997, has done a good job of maintaining minimum standards for broadcast content, and applying these standards to multi-national TV broadcasters.

But the job of all of us gathered here today is to ensure that Television Without Frontiers doesn't turn into Broadcasting Without Boundaries, or Commerce without Culture.

Purpose of the conference

It's not an easy task, which is why we have brought together today more than 400 delegates from across Europe, many of whom are experts in Europe's broadcasting and audiovisual industries.

The main goal of this conference is to try and find the right way of regulating sensibly the broadcasting and audiovisual industries, without stifling tomorrow's innovations or hampering the economic growth of Europe's most creative industries.

Part of our job will be to come up with proposals that reflect the real world, that acknowledge that already, people can get TV and radio through broadband; can book a doctor's appointment or order a pizza through their TV; and can place a bet, email a friend or receive a TV broadcast, just by turning on their mobile phone.

In a sense, that's the easy part, as we know what we are dealing with. The larger challenge will be to try to imagine what other technological advances are still in the pipeline.

The panel of senior industry people will I hope help us try to figure that one out later this afternoon."

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