UK national ‘spine’ for local TV dislocated

The launch of a new national TV network, a key plank of culture secretary Jeremy Hunt’s plan for new local TV services, is to be delayed and may even be scrapped.

Licensing of a new network to provide a national “spine” for the local TV services was due to commence next month, to be followed by the issuing of local licences in summer 2012. However, reports suggest it is now likely to be delayed until after the local services launch and may be abandoned altogether.

More than 50 “expressions of interest” were received by Hunt’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport for bidders to run the new national TV network, with would-be operators currently awaiting government proposals for a formal bidding process due to be published in June.

But the scale of difficulty posed by legislating to force Freeview, Sky and Virgin to make channel slot 106 available on their EPGs for the new network, along with the cost of guaranteeing the necessary national spectrum have led to a major rethink.

Lobbying by would-be local operators, fearful of being dominated by a commercial national network operator with its own priorities and anxious to get started, is also understood to have influenced the government’s thinking. Apparently Hunt feels the ‘top down’ approach may be unhelpful and, presumably, out of step with the whole ‘bog society’ agenda.

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