UK Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has invited companies to run local TV stations. At the Oxford Media Convention, he said the initial schemes will be focused on “ten to twelve” major cities and will challenge bidders to register their interest by March 1st.
He said: “To make this vision a reality I am today inviting existing and new media providers to come forward with suggestions as to how this network channel – or local TV ‘spine’ – could work. It is crazy that a city like Sheffield, for example, does not have its own television station like it would have in most other developed countries.”
“For consumers what this will mean is a new channel dedicated to the provision of local news and content. One that will sit alongside other public service broadcasters, offering a new voice for local communities, with local perspectives that are directly relevant to them.”
“We will not be prescriptive. We will wait for the necessary technical assessment to be completed and we will listen to the commercially viable proposals that come forward.”
“Our goal is to be able to award the relevant licences by the end of 2012, and for local TV to be up and running soon after.”
Hunt also used the occasion of the Convention to announce a thorough review of media and communications that he said would lead to new Communications Act, seven years since the last Act, “a long time in today’s fast-paced environment,” according to Hunt, who wanted to ensure the most modern, innovation and investment-friendly legal structure was in place.
Among other concerns, he suggested that whether viewers were watching a broadcast live or though catch-up services, via a TV or a computer, it’s the content that matters, rather than the delivery mechanism. “So should it continue to be the case that the method of delivery has a significant impact on the method of regulation? Or should we be looking at a more platform-neutral approach?” he asked. “This is not about tweaking the current system, but redesigning it – from scratch if necessary – to make it fit for purpose.”
Seeking industry input to the process, Hunt said the government would publish a Green Paper at the end of the year that will set out the full scope of a Bill. “One that will be put in place in 2015 and that will last for at least a decade,” he claimed.