Give media back to the people, Timms tells Labour Party conference attendees

Widespread broadband and digital communications capability gives citizens the opportunity to wrest control of mass communication...

Widespread broadband and digital communications capability gives citizens the opportunity to wrest control of mass communication away from the few publishers back to the people.

That was the message from newly appointed financial secretary to the treasury and former IT minister Stephen Timms, speaking at a Parliamentary IT Committee (Pitcom) meeting at the Labour Party conference.

In the 18th the pamphleteers and the social movements of the 19th century the media was in the hands of the masses, he said. "Government has a chance to correct the historical imbalance in how people use media."

"Even those at the bottom of the scale took part," he said. After the First World War the barriers to entering mass communications became too high for citizens to take part, he added.

"The future of communications lies in media production being in the hands of the many, not the few," he said, adding that digital TV, e-mail, and third-generation phones with its interactive capabilities will drive this new model.

"We've never been more confident as consumers, but feel less able to effect change," he said. "More people voted on Big Brother than voted in the general Election."

At the meeting, Timms outlined Labour's vision of the future of communications policy, spelling out three fundamental principles.

First, it wants to make competition work properly, not for its own sake, but for real benefit to all citizens. Second, government is concerned to protect the interests of the consumers and citizens, through, for example. the watchdog Ofcom. Finally, it aims to remove social exclusion to help those who want to use communications media but cannot.

At the meeting, Timms also affirmed his support for the Department of Trade and Industry.

"The DTI plays a key role," he said. "It is a mystery why the other parties are talking of evacuating it. The reality is that it plays a big role for government to bring about the change we need. It is a serious mistake for other parties to want to evacuate them."

Timms is succeeded as IT minister by Mike O'Brien, whose appointment was welcomed by chairman of Parliamentary/Industry group Eurim Brian White, also a Labour MP.

"If Stephen [Timms] had to go, having Mike O'Brien there fills me with confidence - it's good news. He's a competent minister who will move forwards."

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