Govt now looking at 'bottom-up' approach for Local TV

The Government has rowed back from proposals for a Local TV network based around a national ‘spine’ – instead now favouring a bottom-up approach.

The Department of Culture Media and Sport today published a summary of the responses to the Action Plan for Local Media launched by Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt in January.

At the time bidders were invited to run a national spine for a new Local TV network on Channel 6 which would provide nationally syndicated programming and sell a hoped-for total of £15m a year of national advertising.

According to the DCMS, the majority of the 140 responses to its consultation favoured a more locally run approach to Local TV so that is now being considered. Respondents also questioned whether a national Local TV network would be able to sell £15m of advertising.

A final policy statement on the future of Local TV along with a detailed timetable is now expected to be published by the DCMS in July.

Under the latest plans announced today, it looks like the Government favours an initial network of between 10 and 20 stations. They will be funded with £40m from the BBC Licence Fee: £15m in initial set-up costs for the years 2013-2014 and then £5m a year towards running costs for three years.

The DCMS still plans for the first Local TV stations to be up and running in 2012.

Press Gazette understand that the DCMS has received 43 expressions of interest in running a local TV station and 21 expressions of interest in running the national network spine.

Meanwhile a question-mark still remains over the future of regional news on ITV which could be scrapped when the current ITV licence is renewed in 2014. ITV currently employs around 600 editorial staff in a regional news operation which costs it around £50m a year to run.

In a statement the DCMS said today: ‘The Culture Secretary is now looking at whether a ‘bottom up’ approach of individual licensed stations rather than prescribing a centralised ‘top-down’ approach is the right model – although he has not yet taken a final decision.

‘Within the right regulatory framework, a series of individual stations could be more financially secure without reliance on a dominant network centre, and could be implemented much faster through secondary legislation.”

Hunt said: ‘The Government is committed to localism – putting power in the hands of citizens and neighbourhoods. Local TV will be a key part of that, giving people the local news and content they want and helping local democracy to flourish.

‘The consultation showed that there is incredibly strong support for the principle of truly local TV. I have been particularly struck by the large number of local groups – particularly outside London – who are keen to deliver this for their own communities. I have also met local community groups and media organisations up and down the country and have been impressed at their enthusiasm for local TV.

‘While I have not yet taken a final decision, it may be that a series of individual stations is the best way to deliver local TV.’

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