ON Monday, the AK Bell Library in Perth hosts a forum on local television in Scotland. The timing could not be better. As digital TV replaces analogue, the Culture secretary at Westminster, Jeremy Hunt, has set a deadline of the first of next month for ‘expressions of interest’ in providing a sustaining service to support local TV across the UK.
While proposed as an UK-wide channel, there is an opportunity for Scotland to have its own sustaining service to support local opt-outs for its rural as well as metropolitan areas.
Shaping the debate recently has been the second Scottish Digital Network Report prepared for the Scottish Government by an independent panel, chaired by Blair Jenkins.
Blair will introduce his proposals for a new Scottish channel with local services on Freeview and broadband.
Deputy Leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Murdo Fraser MSP, will outline the Westminster Government’s Action Plan that has prompted the interest in a new national channel to support local TV.
From Scotland’s newspapers, Stuart McGann will outline the role that the weekly Press might take in developing local TV news as well as advertising content for local services.
Over the last four years, it has been Scotland’s Local TV Working Groups, initiated by broadcasting regulator, Ofcom’s pressure to provide evidence of local demand and capacity, that have lobbied Westminster to secure access to Freeview to compliment broadband delivery.
Representatives from the South of Scotland, Highlands and Islands and Fife-Tay will outline their plans and the local opportunities for participation by production companies and journalists in forming local TV affiliates and opt-out proposals in the nine months before licenses are awarded.
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Dave Rushton is director of the Institute of Local Television.