Ofcom: slow progress on local TV

Ofcom has issued a progress update on local TV, two years since the first licences were awarded.

Ofcom is responsible for licensing local TV stations on digital terrestrial TV and has now issued 30 licences across the UK, to a wide range of different organisations, small and large.

Six local TV channels are now on-air, having broadcast some 6,400 hours of local programmes to a potential audience of six million across the UK, while more than 10 stations are preparing for launch before February 2015.
Two years on from awarding the first licences (in Grimsby and Brighton), the channels now on-air are:

  • Grimsby (broadcasting from November 2013)
  • Norwich (broadcasting from March 2014)
  • London (broadcasting from March 2014)
  • Nottingham (broadcasting from May 2014)
  • Glasgow (broadcasting from June 2014)
  • Brighton & Hove (broadcasting from August 2014)

A second phase of licensing is already under way and there is continued interest from potential applicants in launching channels across the UK. In July, Ofcom invited applications for new local TV channels in seven areas – Aberdeen, Ayr, Carlisle, Dundee, Forth Valley, Inverness and Stoke on Trent.

Local TV licensees are varied in type and size, reflecting the diverse nature of the UK demographic and geography. Licensees range from not-for-profit community ventures to new commercial partnerships between local newspapers, TV production companies and educational institutions.

In awarding local TV licences, Ofcom conducts a thorough assessment of the bids to select the one that best meets the requirements set by Parliament, such as meeting the needs of the local area.

Bidders must demonstrate that they would be financially sustainable and provide evidence that funding is in place, or would be if their application was successful. When awarding a licence, Ofcom carefully considers these factors and makes the best decision it can on the available evidence.

However, the nature of awarding licences for a new type of service in a competitive media market means that it is very unlikely that all channels will succeed. This is an inherent feature of the nature of awarding a large number of licences for a new service across very different parts of the UK.

Ofcom notes that the holder of the Birmingham licence has gone into administration. The administrator is looking to transfer the licence to another party that could launch the service (which would require Ofcom’s consent). If this proves not possible, Ofcom would re-advertise promptly the licence in Birmingham

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