Regional broadband television is coming across the UK, says ITV

ITV has pledged to roll out a regional broadband TV service across the UK in 2007, after launching ITV Local in the London and Central regions this week.

The project, which was launched in October 2005, was subject to a yearlong trial in the Meridian region. The local service will now cover 45 per cent of the UK.

Lindsay Charlton, director of programming and content, ITV Local, confirmed that if the two new services prove successful the rollout would continue across ITV Regions "before the end of 2007".

ITV has billed ITV Local as "a television quality experience" where "your PC just became a TV".

It features regional editorial — including weather, a what's on guide, documentaries, short films and ITV's local news with classified advertising, business listings, property, dating and jobs.

Existing ITV News is broken down into town-by-town coverage and can be watched as a video on demand service.

Advertising on the site will range from a traditional classified lineage advert to a 30-second video ad, and users can sponsor a channel or use a channel for a special event — choices which have raised concerns about competition to the regional print press's classified market.

Charlton said: "We are certainly competing in the marketplace that has been controlled by the regional press but it is a £4bn marketplace and we think there is room for competition."

He added: "It's easier for a television company to put television into the broadband space than it is for a news company to convert itself into a provider of television."

Charlton, who oversaw the Meridian trial, said the site experienced 100,000 users of video plus 400,000 hits on individual pages over a month.

More than 1,200 programmes produced by the public were submitted to the site from individuals to groups such as community projects and local government organisations.

"It gives a video voice to groups and subjects that would not normally have been recognised by traditional broadcasting because broadband is all about niche broadcasting," said Charlton.

"Those specialist interest groups are coming to ITV Local to put across their point of view."

The London service has agreed a deal to create a channel with the Greater London Assembly — an example of partnerships with public organisations ITV said it would be keen to pursue.

Charlton added: "ITV Local is, I think, the great regional media of the 21st century.

"What you find in ITV Local, central or Meridian is what you might have got in the great regional media of the past — news, weather, information, features, interaction with the public, opinion, classifieds, property, dating and so on."

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