Hunt abandons ‘spine’ for local TV

UK culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has confirmed the major policy shift in his plan for a new generation local TV services, virtually scrapping plans for a national network spine in favour of “more financially secure” individual stations.

Hunt admitted that “a series of individual stations could be more feasible and faster to deliver” than launching a new national TV network. He said that as a result of the consultation on proposals the government is now considering a “bottom up” approach of individually licensing stations, as opposed to his original plan of a “top down” method of hanging local services off a national TV network. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has published a summary of the 140 responses to its consultation on local TV.

As Hunt foreshadowed to reporters last month, many of the submissions opposed the national network with potential local TV operators fearful of domination by a commercial national network.

“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,” said Hunt. “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.”

Launching the national spine, which would have taken slot 106 on the electronic programme guide, faced major legislative difficulty in forcing Freeview, Sky and Virgin to add the channel to their EPGs, along with the cost of guaranteeing the necessary national spectrum.

Hunt intends to set out final proposals for local TV before the summer recess.

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