Responses to an appeal for views on how local TV might be delivered have delivered a blow against one possible solution: an UK-wide programme schedule with local providers opting out as and when they have content they would like to broadcast.
It follows a consultation process – between January 19 and April 13 – on local TV, which attracted 140 responses.
In an announcement by the lead arbiter on what, if any, format local TV might take – the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, at Westminster – Culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, is quoted, saying: “The Government is committed to localism – putting power in the hands of citizens and neighbourhoods. Local TV will be a key part of that, giving people the local news and content they want and helping local democracy to flourish.
“The consultation showed that there is incredibly strong support for the principle of truly local TV. I have been particularly struck by the large number of local groups – particularly outside London – who are keen to deliver this for their own communities. I have also met local community groups and media organisations up and down the country and have been impressed at their enthusiasm for local TV.
“While I have not yet taken a final decision, it may be that a series of individual stations is the best way to deliver local TV.”
Says a DCMS media release: “One of the key issues in the consultation was the model for delivery – a national ‘spine’ or individually-licensed stations. In parallel with the consultation, ministers have also been considering issues on technical capacity, implementation, costs and the overall timetable.
“As a result of this consideration and the consultation responses, the Culture Secretary is now looking at whether a ‘bottom up’ approach of individual licensed stations rather than prescribing a centralised ‘top-down’ approach is the right model – although he has not yet taken a final decision. Within the right regulatory framework, a series of individual stations could be more financially secure without reliance on a dominant network centre, and could be implemented much faster through secondary legislation.”
The BBC licence fee settlement, agreed earlier this year, includes £40 million to fund the development of local TV.
In March, STV gave its backing to a possible provider of a 'national spine' local TV service: a company calling itself, appropriateley-enough, Channel 6.