The challenge of convergence I think goes right back to the question you asked me earlier today about why is broadcasting licensed. Broadcasting used to be licensed because of spectrum scarcity and the nature of the technology. We all understood that world very, very clearly. As time has passed, that world has become less and less clear and the historic boundaries between different distribution media have become more and more blurred. Let's put that in absolutely clear terms.
When I was growing up, I knew there was a printing press, I knew what that was and I knew what that produced. There was a television transmitter and I knew what that was and I knew what that did. Today, when I'm consuming my media, I have no idea, necessarily, where it comes from in digital form. I know what a newspaper is and I know what terrestrial broadcasting is, but that is not where the future is. The future is in digital form and in digital form you don't have these fixed silos, these separate physical distribution media through which we can adopt separate regulatory structures. And that is at its heart.
If you imagine a world not only today for those who use iPads or smartphones, but in five, ten, 15 years' time when everybody has a television which is itself immediately connected to the Internet, you have to envisage a world in which people are not only watching the linear broadcasting as we've all grown up to know it, but a world in which they are selecting applications, watching video television-like content which may in fact be being provided by a server located not only in the UK but perhaps in a completely different country.
That content, which may be highly video rich, may well be provided by something that calls itself a newspaper, or it could be being provided by something that calls itself a broadcaster.
Actually, in due course it's quite possible that the viewer in those circumstances would have no idea. They certainly will have no idea which distribution mechanism is providing it. They won't know if it's a satellite, IP television, terrestrial, over the air and so on. So the boundaries of digital media are highly blurred and, crucially, fairly invisible to the viewer, to the consumer, and that is the heart of the challenge.
As we approach that, we can, I think, take comfort in the fact that linear broadcasting is not going to go away. Linear broadcasting, so channels BBC 1, BBC 2, ITV and so on, despite the claims of the technophiles, have proved remarkably resilient. People still like ordinary television. So we can take that as a relatively secure position for the next decade or two, I believe.
But we then have to cope with the fact and think about the fact that people will also be consuming digital media that is not like that and what regulatory context do we place around that?
What I said in my speech was that, and this was an initial set of views, I think you have to think about probably three principal areas. You have to think about broadcasting, and in my view that works well, don't tinker with it too much, people value it. At the other end of the spectrum you need to think about what I call the open Internet, and again this is back to something we touched upon earlier. It is now possible to just publish a blog in 15 minutes, anyone can do it, anyone can be a publisher. We have to accept that there is going to be a space, and we have to be comfortable with and I think be delighted about the fact that this extraordinary phenomenon exists and it has created remarkable freedoms and remarkable access to information. So that is going to be there and it's going to be open and I think it's a fool's errand to try and regulate it.
The really difficult area is the space in between the two, and it seems to me there are two important areas there. The first is what we call video on demand, and that is the digital content, video content, which is available on demand, so that's not linear broadcasting, but to the viewer opening or downloading or accessing video on demand, it looks remarkably like television. It's very similar. And over time, the more so.
My question there is: given that that is going to be on the television in the future, in the living room, do we have the right level of regulation to meet public expectations? And what our research told us was that people say if you are telling me this is going to be on my television in my living room with my family watching it, I would like a little more protection than is currently on offer, because it's more like television.
That is, I think, the first problem.
The second problem is the evolution of the newspaper industry into digital form. I do not know when printing presses will be retired, and I wouldn't like to make a prediction. I'm sure they will be with us for many years. But it's equally clear from everything that's happening in the newspaper industry that the digital form is as much part of the future, if not the future.
It's also clear that a lot of that content is not only text and graphics, but is also likely to be increasingly audio and video rich. So you have a digital product there which a called a newspaper but which is beginning to tiptoe and in some cases move quite swiftly towards that area that we call video on demand. It hasn't often crossed that line, but it's heading towards it.
You have another factor in relation to the press, which is I think the significance and scale and influence factor. If these were services which really nobody accessed, very minuscule audiences of no significance, I think we can then take a very relaxed view about it, but as we all know, newspapers, whether in digital or physical form, have significant scale influences in our society and therefore we need to think about what the right regulatory regime is.
The key point I would make from a convergence perspective, just to draw those threads together, is that as the newspaper becomes more and more and over time I think ultimately in digital form, we have to make sure that that area, between the open Internet at one end and conventional linear broadcasting at the other, that is the difficult area and that is what we need to anticipate, because I think that is where we're going to end up, and in some cases fairly soon.