Over the past few weeks, the UK broadcasting regulator Ofcom has been getting on with the job of awarding digital transmission licences for the Local TV applications. The new channels will transmit on Freeview.
However, the big prize, that of content playout, transmission responsibility and accountability for the management of the national digital channel ‘Muxco’ that would carry the local TV stations, is likely to be awarded in the next few days, probably this week. The local TV services are tapping into ‘gap filler’ frequencies created as a result of the switch from analogue to digital TV.
The UK government, via Ofcom, is seeking to establish local TV stations to more accurately serve cities and communities outside the current broadcasting suppliers. Ofcom’s ‘local digital television programme’ licences should start coming on stream around 18 months from now, provided there are no further delays. The BBC is funding the stations for a period of three years, although individual station funding is extremely modest. The initial station licences run for 12 years.
21 applications are in the first batch, although Ofcom is also talking of up to 65 eventual locations. But first, it wants proven success from the initial 21, and working business models that the followers can adopt. Belfast, Birmingham, Brighton & Hove, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Grimsby, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich, Nottingham, Oxford, Plymouth, Preston, Southampton and Swansea are the first recipients.
The announcement to be made in the next few days is of who will manage the system, take responsibility for building the transmitters, networking and playing out each station’s programming.
There are four applications:
At least three of the applicants would use Gerrards Cross-based Arqiva as the supplier of transmission skills and infrastructure.