The Government has confirmed plans to scrap a Local TV network based around a national “spine”, instead opting for a series of independent local stations.
Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt originally wanted to introduce a single network channel – or local TV spine – dedicated to the provision of local news and content. This would have sold advertising nationally and provided nationally syndicated content.
But following a consultation earlier this year Hunt began rowing back from the idea. The results of the consultation revealed the majority of the 140 respondents favoured a more locally-run approach.
The Government said it was ‘committed to acting to address the technical and commercial barriers to developing new and thriving local TV provision”, and to make it feasible it announced that ‘a package of geographic interleaved spectrum will be allocated and managed by a new licensed multiplex company”.
The company will build and operate the necessary multiplexes to carry separately-licensed local TV services.
The Government said the number of services that will emerge ‘is subject to spectrum coverage and commercial sustainability”
‘Local media is a vital part of local democracy and plays an important role in holding institutions to account,’said Hunt.
‘Audiences want more local content that’s directly relevant to what’s going on in their own communities, which is why it’s one of my priorities to address the almost total lack of local TV in the UK.
‘I firmly believe that creating the right conditions for viable local TV services up and down the UK will bring about a significant change in the media market. After careful consideration of the responses to the local media action plan, I am confident that targeted action from the Government and industry can put local TV on a strong and sustainable footing.
‘There is great scope to contribute to growth in our creative industries, develop local journalism and help bring communities together around a shared voice.”
While the framework does not include the creation of a local network spine, Hunt said businesses could form a network if that ‘makes commercial sense”.
The infrastructure costs will be met from £25 million allocated as part of the BBC licence fee settlement.
Hunt said the Government intends to publish a list of locations indicating spectrum coverage and potential local TV areas in due course.