A number of leading advocates of local TV in the UK have formed the Local TV Alliance and have written to the Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt reiterating their support for his original vision and urging him not to be deterred by vested interests.
The initial members of the Alliance include Channel 6, Local 6 and Inclusive Digital all keen to provide the support network recommended by Nicholas Shott, and announced by Hunt in his January Local Media Action Plan.
Commenting on the letter, Clive Jones, Chairman of Channel 6, noted that a number of like-minded interests welcomed the Action Plan, “then, just a few weeks ago, we heard that Jeremy was now veering away from the network/affiliate model towards the idea of standalone local stations.” The reason given for the change was that implementation of some of the Action Plan might take longer than expected.
Jones noted that the idea of standalone local stations had been comprehensively dismissed in the Shott report, and had been tried and failed by some of the UK’s local media groups and individual enthusiasts, as well as being ruled out in the January action Plan.
“We’ve written to the Secretary of State to encourage him to stick to his guns,” said Jones. “We’ve had detailed discussions with Ofcom, we’ve each taken a look at our own plans, different in detail as they are, and we’ve come to a common conclusion. We can still deliver, Minister. We stand ready, willing and able to adapt our plans to accommodate the new realities.”
The Alliance said that it was satisfied following discussion with Ofcom that “robust application” of the existing framework for Electronic Programme Guides would secure EPG positioning alongside the existing PSB Channels on all platforms. It also said that geographic interleaved spectrum would not only provide a practical balance between coverage and capacity for local services, but when aggregated, would deliver sufficient coverage for a commercially viable national support network, if in the event, it proved impossible to gain carriage on an existing PSB multiplex.
The Alliance contended that “enthusiasm and commitment” were not enough, and that local broadcasters needed the support a national network to provide a wide range of essential services, without which they could not survive commercially.