Campaigners lobby MPs for 'Channel 6' local TV network

A new television network on Freeview could help fill the void in local TV left by the BBC and ITV, according to campaigners.

The proposed network, Channel 6, could carry local news, programming and advertising. It would also run networked public service content.

Jaqui Devereux, spokeswoman for campaign group United for Local Television, said the new local network would provide a clear public service, because of its role as a platform for community information.

The campaigners argue that the 2003 Communications Act enables the provision of community TV and are turning to the Government for support. An Early Day Motion has won the support of 126 MPs.

‘Many of the public service broadcasters are moving away from ultra-local. The BBC knows it can’t do ultra-local,’Devereux said. ‘Local for the public service broadcasters is regional, which is not local.”

The BBC ditched ultra-local news plans last year as part of its corporation-wide cutbacks. It said it would concentrate on developing online news services, investing £300m in the project, subject to approval by the BBC Trust.

ITV announced plans last year to reduce its television news regions from 17 to nine. Since then, it has been shrinking its staffing levels, reducing numbers in its regional affairs and management departments. Regional news staff are thought to be next in line for review.

Devereux said current local commercial operators would lose their licences if they are forced to bid against bigger broadcasters when the rights to the spectrum are put up for auction in 2012.

Local television stations are currently run on a variety of models – from community stations to fully commercial enterprises offering a mix of local news and information.

The campaigners believe there are a number of potential operators and that local newspaper groups could also invest if the project gets the go-ahead.

colinc@pressgazette.co.uk

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