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Comms regulator Ofcom has invited applications for 21 local TV channels across the UK. This follows new duties given to the regulator by Parliament to license local TV.
The local TV channels will broadcast on a specially-reserved ‘multiplex’; this is a discrete amount of spectrum used for broadcasting over digital terrestrial TV (DTT).
In addition to inviting applicants for 21 stations, Ofcom is also inviting applications to run the local TV multiplex.
Following consultation, the initial areas identified for local TV channels are: Belfast, Birmingham, Brighton & Hove, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Grimsby, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich, Nottingham, Oxford, Plymouth, Preston, Sheffield, Southampton and Swansea.
As well as broadcasting on DTT, local TV channels may choose to offer their services on satellite, cable and online.
The multiplex operator will be required to cover all of the areas above and to propose which areas additionally to cover; they can select from 44 other areas where coverage is technically possible or make a case for other areas to be added.
The local multiplex licence will be for 12 years, although wider spectrum developments that affect the whole DTT platform mean that Ofcom will reserve the right to vary or terminate the licence with no less than five years’ notice. This is similar to other DTT licences and we would consult fully on any proposed changes.
The local multiplex must reserve capacity for the licensed local service at each site. It may additionally make any commercial use it likes of the additional capacity, which is sufficient to carry two other standard definition video streams. Any other services broadcast using this capacity would need to be licensed under the normal Broadcasting Act regime.
The closing date for applications to run the 21 local TV channels and the multiplex is 13th August 2012. Ofcom expects to make decisions on successful applicants from this autumn.