Hunt Unveils New Framework for Local TV

Plans to launch a new UK-wide TV network with a range of local opt-outs have been officially scrapped, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has confirmed.

The proposal to license a single national 'spine' hosting individual local TV services across the country has instead been replaced with a package of geographic, interleaved digital terrestrial TV spectrum to be allocated and managed by a new licensed multiplex company.

The move is set to enjoy support in the region of £40 million from the BBC license fee – £25 million to fund initial infrastructure costs and a further spend by the broadcaster of £5 million per year for three years on showcasing local content.

A statement issued yesterday by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) also pledged to deliver prominent positions on electronic programme guides on Freeview and other platforms for newly-launched local TV providers.

In a written ministerial statement, Hunt is quoted as saying: “The proposals include three statutory instruments: the first, to reserve sufficient local, low-cost spectrum for carrying the local TV services; the second to create a proportionate and targeted licensing regime for the spectrum and local TV service operators; and the third, to secure appropriate prominence for the licensed local services in television electronic programme guides.

“Local TV will provide news and other content for local audiences helping to hold local institutions to account and providing proper local perspectives. This framework offers the right incentives to the market to develop innovative business models; provides greater certainty and reduced risk for investors; and encourages new market opportunities and growth. 

“This framework takes into account a range of views provided to the Government through an earlier consultation and has involved a broad assessment of the technical, commercial and regulatory requirements involved. Information on spectrum coverage and possible locations will be made available in due course.”

The number of local TV services to be launched remains unclear at present. A further update is to be published later in the summer once an assessment of the potential number of local television licenses likely to be offered has been undertaken.