In a speech to the Royal Television Society convention on Wednesday, Sharp will say that there are “urgent questions” that need answering as “closed media environments” have allowed conspiracy theories, lies and falsehoods to spread rapidly.
“Where once these theories would bubble away in private echo chambers, COVID has created the perfect conditions for them to boil over into the mainstream – fed by algorithms that are great at recognising viral potential but not so good at spotting nonsense,” Sharp will say. “The pandemic and ‘infodemic’ that has spread alongside have left us in no doubt of how vulnerable we all are. But it has also suggested that some are more vulnerable than others.”
Sharp will say that the “magnetic draw” of conspiracy theories has grown stronger and has real-life consequences on 5G masts being pulled down, reducing vaccine take up or “or leaving the results of democratic elections in doubt.”
Sharp, an ex-banker with close ties to the current U.K. Conservative government, especially Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, was appointed earlier this year.
At the convention, which is taking place in Cambridge, Sharp is expected to call for the U.K. Communications Act 2003 to be replaced with modern legislation fit for the digital age and say now is the time to introduce greater protections to safeguard future generations.
“There are urgent questions to be answered about the future media world we want to live in,” Sharp will say. “We need to rethink the regulatory environment in this country – and replace a Communications Act that pre-dates Facebook with one that can deliver on a clear vision.”
“Do we need to claim our personal data as a human right, rather than an asset to be bought and sold? Now is the time to put in place the rights, protections and education that will safeguard – not just our media environment – but the stability of our societies and democracies long into the future.”
Sharp is also expected to extol the virtues of the BBC as an impartial news provider that has a role as “a force for the good.”