Nine Scottish towns and cities have been identified among 65 locations, UK-wide, that might be the bases for a network of local TV providers.
The six – Aberdeen, Ayr, Dundee, Edinburgh, Elgin, Falkirk, Glasgow, Greenock and Inverness – have been chosen by broadcasting regulators, Ofcom, to coincide with a consultation being launched by the Departmernt for Culture, Media and Sport on where the local TV should actually operate from.
The Ofcom recommendations – which include six locations in Wales and three in Northern Ireland – are based on the likes of transmitter locations.
Says ther DCMS website: “The first licences will be open to bidders in just a few months and a consultation has been published today asking the potential towns and cities why they think they should be among the first selected to bid for a local TV licence. It is expected that the initial list will be narrowed down to about 20 contenders for the first set of licences before the end of the year.”
Westminster Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, who has been promoting the creation of a network of local TV is quoted, as saying: “These new local TV services will be a fundamental change in how people get information about their own communities and how they hold their representatives to account. There’s a huge appetite for local news and information in communities the length and breadth of the country. I want people to be able to watch television that’s truly relevant to them.”
Says Ofcom, in choosing its 65 locations: “It is important to note that Ofcom has not yet been granted the necessary powers to conduct a local TV licensing process. The Government’s framework document suggested that such legislation would be laid in due course, but until such time Ofcom is acting in a technical advisory capacity only. This document does not provide a list of locations where local TV licences will definitely be advertised, nor does it request expressions of interest or applications for local TV services. It is merely a technical assessment of where services might be possible. Should legislation be laid which grants Ofcom the powers to conduct a local TV licensing process, we would expect to consult on our approach prior to inviting applications for any such services.”
However, the proposed Scottish locations have not met with the approval of Hunt's Scottish Government counterpart, Fiona Hyslop, who supports the idea of a digital TV channel dedicated to Scottish content and paid for out of the TV licence fee – the Scottish Digital Network, as proposed by the Scottish Broadcasting Commission three years ago.
In a statement, she is quoted as saying: “Local TV services have the potential to bring benefits to viewers across Scotland. However, the UK Government's plans fall far short of the mark.
“We have real concerns about Jeremy Hunt's proposals which would leave gaping holes in provision, particularly in rural areas. Today's announcement makes clear services will not even be established in all the eligible locations.
“Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders are arguably the parts of Scotland most in need of local television. Viewers here currently receive local news on Channel 3 which is broadcast from Gateshead. Nothing in these inadequate proposals would deliver benefits for viewers in these areas, which are not even on the list of eligible locations..
“We firmly believe that a publicly-funded Scottish Digital Network is the best way to sustain and support local television services in Scotland. Our vision for a national network would serve viewers the length and breadth of the country – not just the largest centres of population which are commercially attractive – as well as meeting the need for choice in public service broadcasting in Scotland.”
Hunt is to host a series of Local TV 'summits', throughout the UK, including in Glasgow on the ninth of next month.