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Media convergence think tank seeks its inner Womble

Culture minister announces mystery strategisers

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A convergence think tank intended to shape government new media policy is to begin work in the new year, Culture Secretary James Purnell announced last week. The think tank, he said, is intended to "bring together expertise from the worlds of broadcasting, telecommunications and internet services to consider consider the opportunities and challenges we might face."

Both the opportunities and challenges, and the membership of the think tank itself however seem at this juncture somewhat vague. Purnell helpfully commented: "We are living in a period of unimagined technological possibility, with almost limitless potential for communication. While we can't predict the future, we can be sure that it will look very different from what we see today." Indeedy.

Business Secretary John Hutton added, equally helpfully: "The way we are choosing to access entertainment and news and communicate with each other is changing at a rapid pace. The traditional barriers between various communication technologies are disappearing."

The executive summary at this point in time seems to be that the government is aware that broadcast, comms and Internet are blurring into each other, that it thinks it needs to do something (particularly, because it regulates broadcast to within an inch of its life but barely regulates Internet at all), but that it doesn't know what. So, er, you lot go away and think about it for a year and come back with some proposals by 2009.

But which lot is that? Although we allegedly now have a think tank intended to "bring together experts from broadcasting and communications to map a converged future", so far only a four person steering group and a series of three seminars has been announced. The seminars will "bring together key industry decision makers to discuss and debate specific questions", and a "wide range of industry executives and consumer representatives" are, we are told, to be invited. The suspicious-minded, however, might consider the possibility that the "think tank" is just the name of the shop, and the steering group and seminars are all there is to it.

But a "dedicated CTT web site" will go live in January, ahead of the first seminar on 7th February, so more may be revealed then.

The steering group so far consists of John Willis, who is currently head of TV production company Mentorn, Robin Foster, chief adviser to media strategy consultants Human Capital, BT veteran Chris Earnshaw, and Tess Read, consultant at AMR International and the group's new media expert. Read, we are told, is "the author of two books on the internet". These include The Internet Start-up Bible - so you want to be a dot.com millionaire, but we're having trouble nailing down the second.

Was it The Wombles' Guide to Life? Or was it perhaps Mr Benn's Little Book of Life? We'll leave you to decide which is most useful for government policy development - sage advice from furry children's TV characters or a 'how to be a millionaire' book from the Dotcom bubble. And yes, we know there must be at least two Tess Reads, but just don't go telling us, OK? ®

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