Timms adds Digital Britain duties

Treasury minister takes on wide-ranging brief

U.K. government treasury minister Stephen Timms has been given responsibility for the Digital Britain initiative, a wide-ranging brief that covers the future of broadcasting and telcos in the digital age.

Timms will oversee the development of the infrastructure to give all homes access to fast broadband Internet by 2012. This will be funded through a £6 ($10.20) a year levy on all phone lines.

He inherits the task of forging a partnership between BBC Worldwide, the pubcaster’s commercial arm, and Channel 4, the cash-strapped broadcaster funded by the state and advertising income. The objective is to dip into the wealthy BBCW’s pockets to bail out C4, which has not been greeted with much glee by the BBC.

Timms also will need to override BBC resistance to a plan to take a slice of its license fee to pay for regional news and children’s programming on other TV outlets.

Another item on his “to do” list is the quest to honor the pledge to cut online piracy by 70%. A deal between Internet service providers and media companies on the sanctions to be placed on repeat offenders has yet to be reached.

The Digital Britain initiative was formerly the responsibility of communications minister Stephen Carter, who stepped down last month.

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