Cablegate: Fcc Commissioner Copps Explores Uk's Digital Tv Transition

DE RUEHLO #4082/01 3031303
R 301303Z OCT 07




E.O. 12598: N/A


1. (U) SUMMARY: The UK's transition to digital TV is progressing
smoothly thanks in large part to an impressive BPS 200 Million ($400
Million) public awareness campaign and a BPS 600 Million ($1.2
Billion) Help Scheme, according to HMG officials. The analog BBC TWO
signal in the small town of Whitehaven turned off on October 17 and
was replaced with digital channels. In four weeks, the other analog
terrestrial channels will also be switched off and replaced with
digital signals. This process will be repeated throughout the UK
until 2012 when the roll out of Digital TV completes. The Office of
Communications (Ofcom), the UK equivalent of the FCC, also briefed
Commissioner Copps on UK views on regulatory issues such as food
advertising to children, indecency, and the new EU "TV without
Frontiers" directive. Commissioner Copps also visited the London
Metropolitan Police's new state of the art Command and Control
Center (CCC), which is the communications nerve center for London's
emergency services. The Metropolitan Police say their CCC is the
largest of its kind in the world and is designed to deal with the
special or emergency events that constantly take place in the London
area. The CCC assists police to monitor events as diverse as
Carnival and terrorist attacks. END SUMMARY

Who is Digit "Al" and what is he doing to my TV?
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2. (U) FCC Commissioner Michael Copps met in London on October 17
and 18, 2007, with Secretary of State for Culture, Media, and Sport,
James Purnell, Deputy Chairman Phillip Graaf and senior staff of
Ofcom, and Ford Ennals, the CEO of Digital UK, which is a public -
private joint venture responsible for the transition to digital TV
in the UK. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and
Ofcom both have leading governmental roles in the transition. DCMS
sets policy for the transition. Ofcom suggested creating Digital UK
in 2003 and since then has focused on ensuring that the required
spectrum and other infrastructure will be available. A partnership
between government and telecoms firms, Digital UK's role is the
public face of the transition, which educates and interacts with the

3. (U) On the morning after the start of the UK's five year
transition to Digital TV, Purnell told Copps that it was going well.
Purnell says that HMG's strategy has been to "over-prepare and
under-promise" on the transition. He says that Members of Parliament
(MP) have been taking this transition extremely seriously, because
of the potential public relations nightmare that could occur if it
goes wrong. He says the nightmare scenario would be if the media
began running stories on "Grannies with no Telly." MP's worry that
British media could turn this story into a political disaster in the
event that things go wrong. One precaution against this potential
scenario is the Digital TV transition Help Scheme. The BPS 600
Million ($1.2 Billion) Help Scheme is designed to ensure that the
elderly and disabled never miss a single episode of a program. The
scheme has two parts. The first part is financial. The Help Scheme
will fully pay or partially subsidize the Digital TV converter boxes
for the disabled or elderly. For those who meet the poverty
requirements, the converter boxes will be free. The more affluent
will have to pay a BPS 40 ($80) fee. The second part of the "Help
Scheme" is that a technician will actually travel to the homes of
the elderly and disabled to install the converter boxes for them.
Purnell says the Help Scheme should provide MP's with an explanation
for shortfalls in the event of complaints. In addition, the plan to
roll-out digital TV slowly across the country until 2012 means that
problems can be isolated and solved before they become widespread
according to Purnell. Digital UK CEO Ennals characterized the US
plan for transitioning on a single date in February 2009 as "bold."

4. (U) HMG officials estimate that virtually 100% of households in
Whitehaven are aware of the digital TV transition now. They also
estimate that nationally 85% of households are aware of the
impending change. This compares favorably with the estimates of less
than 50% in the US. HMG has allocated BPS 200 million ($400 Million)
for a Digital TV transition public awareness campaign. This was
funded by the TV tax which all TV owners in the UK must pay. Digital
UK has even created a cartoon mascot named "Digit Al" for the
transition. Digital UK runs ads on national TV to promote awareness
and uses TV captions, headings, and other on-screen devices to
create awareness preceding the transition in an area. Digital UK
also mails pamphlets to homes one year and again three months prior
the transition. The effect has been that nearly 100% of residents in
the tiny town were aware of the transition. However, approximately
2,500 of the 25,000 residents were still not prepared in time.
Digital UK says that one of the most common reasons given for not
preparing was the apparent disbelief on the part of residents that
the government would actually go through with the change.

What do wardrobe malfunctions, swearing, and obese children have in
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LONDON 00004082 002 OF 002

5. (U) Ofcom publishes the broadcast codes for UK television and can
impose sanctions for those who break the codes. The process for
regulating content in the UK is complaint driven. When a television
viewer files a complaint, Ofcom first decides if the complaint is
valid, and then decides whether or not any penalty should be imposed
on the broadcaster. Graaf suggested that Janet Jackson's infamous
Superbowl wardrobe malfunction would not have resulted in a fine in
the UK. He says that most likely an apology from the broadcaster
would have been sufficient. However, Ofcom does impose fines.
Recently, Ofcom fined the BBC after on-air guests continued to use
expletives during day time television despite previous Ofcom
warnings. Once Ofcom makes a decision, there is no appeals process
and the decision cannot be overruled by a higher authority.

6. (U) Food advertising to children is a topic of great concern to
both the FCC and Ofcom. Over a year ago, Ofcom ruled that makers of
unhealthy food cannot advertise during children's programming. Graaf
said that studies showed a 2-5% correlation between food advertising
to children and their eating habits. Ofcom says that cigarette
advertising in the 1960's also showed a 2-5% correlation to consumer
choices. The UK Department of Health has published a list of
unhealthy foods and now these foods cannot be advertised during
children's programming. However, food manufacturers and restaurants
can still advertise their brands. Television broadcasters blame the
food advertising ban for an alleged decline in the availability of
children's programming on UK TV. They say the reduced advertising
revenue has made children's television an unattractive business
decision. However, Ofcom disputes this by saying that the number of
children's programming was on the decline before the introduction of
the ban and the effect is negligible.

7. (U) The EU's new "TV without Frontiers" directive is proving to
be both a boon and headache to the UK. The new directive dictates
that the place of origin decides the rules regulating TV content.
For example, if a broadcaster in Germany creates French language
programming and then broadcasts it from Germany to France, German
regulators are responsible for the content. Due to its relatively
liberal content regulations, many broadcasters are rushing to set up
shop in the UK. However, this is causing some problems for Ofcom.
Recently, Ofcom received complaints about programming originating in
the UK for Russian-speaking Lithuanians. Ofcom officials say they
find it obviously difficult to judge these sorts of complaints.
Ofcom says that the real challenge in the future will be to regulate
emerging technologies like online social media with no clear point
of origin.

Yes, they are watching you

8. (SBU) Commissioner Copps also visited the London Metropolitan
Police's new Command and Control Center (CCC). The recently opened
CCC appears to be something out of a James Bond movie with floor to
ceiling television monitors and retractable walls. The CCC can
access over 65,000 closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras in the
London area. Police officers in the CCC then use joysticks to move
and zoom the cameras in order to direct the officers in the field
during an event. The CCC is specially designed to handle the over
5000 annual large events in London such as protests, sporting
events, and terrorist attacks. The Metropolitan Police say the CCC
is the largest special operating room of its kind in the world. The
London Metropolitan Police also briefed Commissioner Copps on their
new hand held radios. Police all over the UK use the same digital
hand-held radio unit. They say the communications equipment is
naturally a compromise between the varying demands of police forces
around the country. They say communication in London is adequate,
but there are some shortcomings. There is no radio coverage in the
longest underground tunnels and base station capacity limits the
total number of users despite the available spectrum. The
Commissioner also toured the emergency call center that receives
"999" emergency calls. In the UK the standard emergency number is
999, but calls to 911 and 112 are also routed to the call center.
Police say this is to ensure foreigners in the UK have access to
emergency services. The center recently combined 32 separate local
centers into four centralized centers. They say calls are increasing
exponentially with the increase in access to mobile phones and they
expect to receive 23 million calls annually by 2010.


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