UK broadcast and communications regulator Ofcom has awarded the licence to run the local TV service in London on digital terrestrial TV to ESTV’s London Live channel. The London channel is expected to cover around 4 million homes, the largest reach of all the new local TV services. ESTV beat four other applicants to the licence.
ESTV is backed by local daily freesheet the London Evening Standard with the eight-person management board including the paper’s chairman, Evgeny Lebedev – also the owner of national daily The Independent – its editor, Sarah Sands, and the Standard’s managing director, Andrew Mullins. Other backers of the bid include Peter Bennett-Jones (formerly of TV production company Tiger Aspect) and the former Ofcom head (Lord) Stephen Carter.
The licence has been awarded for a period of up to 12 years.
In May 2012, Ofcom invited applications to run local TV services in 21 local areas. In total, 57 applications were received to run the local TV services, along with four applications for the local multiplex. Ofcom received five applications for the London licence.
As well as broadcasting on DTT, it is anticipated that local TV channels might also wish to offer their services on satellite, cable and online.
Ofcom has now awarded 15 local TV licences, as well as the multiplex licence, and will make further licence awards in the coming months.
Ofcom’s Broadcast Licensing Committee (BLC) decided that the proposals of Made in London and YourTV London were less well developed than those put forward by ESTV, London 8 and City6 in relation to a range of statutory criteria to be take into account when considering licence award.
In this respect, the proposals put forward by ESTV, London 8 and Citydemonstrated a detailed understanding and knowledge of the needs of the London coverage area and proposed local links that would help ensure the proposed services met the needs of the local area to the greatest extent.
The BLC considered that City6 would be likely to meet the needs of the area with some high quality local programming, however, the lower output of locally-targeted programming proposed by City6 in its programming commitments would result in a less locally distinctive service when compared with ESTV and London 8 and would therefore be less likely to meet the needs of the local area and to broaden the range of programmes made in or about the area than ESTV or London 8. The BLC considered that ESTV and London 8 had put forward particularly strong applications by comparison.
The BLC also considered whether any issues of plurality of providers arose which might affect its decision on award of the licence to either ESTV or London 8. Taking into account the number and range of news providers (newspapers, television and radio news services and online services) available in the London coverage area and covering London issues, the BLC was of the view that it was unlikely that the award of the licence to either ESTV or London8 would adversely affect the sufficiency of plurality of providers of services.
The BLC considered that each of ESTV and London 8 had:
The BLC considered, that of these two applicants, ESTV demonstrated the greatest understanding of London’s diverse communities by putting forward proposals which would allow representation of those communities whilst not excluding others as a result. ESTV’s proposals covered a significant range of subjects and would therefore meet the needs of local communities to the greatest extent. ESTV’s proposals also provided important opportunities for close local community involvement, taking into account, in particular, its proposals for IPTV services in each London borough which would be included in its programming commitments. ESTV was also in a particularly strong position to launch and maintain its proposed service, given its proposals for npromoting and marketing the channel.
Taking into account the above factors as a whole, the BLC concluded that ESTV put forward the strongest.