UK plans local TV licence renewal
June 7, 2023
By Colin Mann
Local TV services are set to remain on the UK airwaves until 2034, subject to a review of each station’s future plans, under proposals set out by the government.
The plans would allow the media regulator Ofcom to renew the licences of all 34 local TV services, subject to a review of each station’s plans to continue meeting the needs of local audiences, which are currently due to expire in 2025.
Launched in 2013, local TV services are accessible to 15 million people (normally occupying channel 7 or 8 on Freeview) and are required to show a number of hours of local programming each day.
Stations across the country include London Live, Sheffield Live, Cardiff TV and That’s TV. Many have established themselves as a trusted source for local news and distinctive shows focused on smaller geographic areas than national public service broadcasters.
While recognising the challenges they have faced, particularly during the pandemic, the government believes that local TV services continue to play a role in the wider broadcasting ecosystem. Many services – such as Notts TV in Nottingham and KMTV in Kent – also boost local journalism through training programmes provided in production, news reporting and technical roles, which enable students to gain hands-on experience.
In recognition that some outlets have struggled to generate stable revenue streams, maintain consistent audience numbers and sustainably fund genuinely local content, the government has published a consultation inviting views on the opportunities and challenges facing the sector to ensure it can continue to serve audiences and be sustainable in the long term.
“Local TV stations from Belfast to Birmingham help to support local journalism, drive the creative economy and foster pride in communities,” noted John Whittingdale, Media Minister. “We want to see this continue, so we’ve set out plans for Ofcom to review all services to ensure they’re well positioned to continue serving local audiences with trusted and distinctive content for years to come.”
Ofcom will review each station’s proposals for the decade ahead to ensure they can maintain their current service and continue making distinctive shows which meet the needs of the local area.
If Ofcom approves their plans, services will be allowed to continue broadcasting until 2034 and retain several benefits – including a prominent position in electronic TV guides. Should current providers choose not to renew their licence, or Ofcom decides not to approve a renewal, Ofcom will move to a competitive relicensing process.
The government has set out its proposed approach to the renewal process in a consultation which invites views on the current objectives licence holders are assessed against by Ofcom.
These objectives include producing content that provides social and economic benefit to the community, caters to the taste and interests of those they serve and increases the amount of programming made in the area.
Participants will also be invited to submit responses on innovative suggestions relating to how local TV could be used to enhance local journalism and democracy across the UK.
The 12-week consultation will close on August 30th and is open to both industry and members of the public. Subject to the outcome of consultation, the government plans to move forward with the necessary secondary legislation later in 2023.