Lord Stephen Carter will leave the government following the publication of the Digital Britain report. The white paper will attempt to address a wide range of issues, from the problems facing broadcasters to the provision of broadband and online piracy. The highly anticipated digital manifesto seems unlikely to satisfy the high level of expectations it has raised.
Having been made Baron Carter of Barnes in order to become the unelected minister for communications, technology and broadcasting just nine months ago, Stephen Carter, the former strategy adviser to the prime minister and former chief executive of the communications regulator Ofcom, will leave the government following the publication of his blueprint for Digital Britain.
He was jointly appointed by the ministries for business and culture, but in a recent reshuffle the former has be restructured and a new secretary of state for broadcasting has been appointed.
The government has confirmed that Lord Carter will leave the cabinet following the publication of the report, after putting in place “a detailed implementation plan” within a month.
“The prime minister appointed Stephen Carter as communications minister with the specific task of commissioning and producing the Digital Britain report and its follow-up recommendations. This was agreed at the time,” said a statement. “We can confirm that he will step down at summer recess with the completion of his work, as originally intended and with the full agreement of the Prime Minister.”
There has been speculation that Stephen Carter could be in the running for the role of chief executive of the commercial broadcaster ITV, although ministers are supposed to seek approval on any posts taken up within two years of leaving office.
The news that the architect of Digital Britain is expected to stand down without staying around to see any of its proposed policies implemented is likely to undermine the final report when it is published on Tuesday.
The interim report earlier this year recommended a universal access provision for broadband at speeds of 2Mbps, which was seen by some as realistic but unambitious. It is expected to remain a core premise of the final report, although according to its author: “We never said that a based level of broadband connectivity is the ceiling of our ambitions”.
In a recorded video interview at the Delivering Digital Britain conference in London, Stephen Carter joked that the report “will obviously be met with a chorus of disapproval” but he hoped that the critical opinion of the report would be that “it was definitely worth writing” and that “it’s made a difference”.
At the conference, Kip Meek, chair of the Broadband Stakeholder Group and a former colleague at Ofcom, said he was surprised at the emphasis on universality of access. “We should be more ambitious on providing next generation access to 40% of the country,” he said. “The problem is not coverage but takeup”.