Channel M, the local TV station run by the Manchester Evening News, has won a licence to broadcast to the entire city on a free-to-air basis for the first time in its nine-year history.
The service is expected to launch on Freeview later this year after Ofcom announced today that MEN Media had won an auction for spare broadcasting spectrum.
Channel M currently broadcasts on free-to-air terrestrial TV on channel 39 in Manchester, but the Guardian Media Group – the MEN’s parent company – said the signal was patchy in parts of the city.
Launching on Freeview will give the channel a much wider free-to-air audience. Channel M is also available on the Sky and Virgin Media pay TV platforms.
Ofcom confirmed last week that the Manchester Evening News was the only bidder for the spectrum, which is being freed up as a result of the digital television switchover.
Manchester was the first area where an auction took place. A second spectrum auction, in Cardiff, is due to be held by Ofcom later this month.
The reglator said it was considering similar auctions in other cities after the digital switchover has been completed.
It said the spectrum “would be suitable for local television in a variety of locations” – opening up the possibility of a series of new local TV news channels appearing around the UK.
But local TV bidders face competition from a number of other potential users for the auctioned spectrum – including mobile broadband and city-wide wifi.
Channel M launched in February 2000 and recently expanded, with the addition of more live programmes including a three-hour breakfast show and news bulletins five days a week at 5pm and 9pm.
In its submission to Ofcom’s digital dividend review in 2007, GMG said it had “high confidence in the commercial sustainability of the local TV model”.
“We would like to express how positive we are about the local TV opportunity,” the company said.
“The Channel M template could be replicated in other parts of the country, by GMG or other organisations.”