The BBC Trust has delayed paying out the latest instalment of up to £25 million (€29.4m) to fund the costs of transmitting the local TV channels, after questions about accounting at Comux, the company that builds and manages local TV infrastructure. Without the money, a second round of proposed channels, covering Cambridge, Middlesbrough and York cannot be launched.
Meanwhile, London Live – the biggest station to launch so far, which shares the same owner as the capital’s Evening Standard newspaper – has recorded close-to-zero audience figures for some of its news programmes. Three weeks after launch, London Live’s editorial director Stefano Hatfield, has departed.
The problems at Comux are reported to be linked Canis Media, the company that set it up and which has the contract to manage Comux’s transmission network. Ed Hall who departed as CEO and founder of Canis last year, remains chief executive of Comux, which, it is planned, should ultimately to be owned jointly by all the local TV licensees.
The BBC Trust has been conducting an audit of Comux as it is entitled to do under its funding contract. As a result, a payment of more than £1 million, which was expected by Comux earlier this year, has not been made.
Hall told The Guardian: “I welcome the BBC audit, and I’m confident that it will give Comux a clean bill of health. We are working cooperatively with the BBC Trust to try and ensure that the audit doesn’t have any impact on the timetable for phase two launches.”