Department for Culture Media and Sport

Q&A

Why does the Government want local TV?

Local media is a vital part of local democracy. It can play a role in holding institutions to account, ensuring that local people are aware of what is going on in their local communities and helping them to understand the influence they can have.

Audiences want more local content but there is virtually no local TV in the UK compared to most of Europe and North America. Television is a trusted form of media for many people and we therefore see an exciting role for local TV in bringing local democracy to local people.

What will local TV look like?

Local TV will develop in response to the needs of local audiences. Bidders have been asked in their licence applications to show how they intend to meet the needs and interests of people in their locality. They have also been asked to set out their “key commitments” in these areas. 

By definition, local services will not be carbon copies of each other as for example, the needs of viewers in a large urban conurbation may be very different to the needs of viewers in a smaller location or one which covers a number of towns.

Which locations are in the first round of licensing?

There is a minimum coverage requirement of 21 locations. These are: Belfast, Birmingham, Brighton & Hove, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Grimsby, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich, Nottingham, Oxford, Plymouth, Preston, Sheffield, Southampton and Swansea.

Which ones are in the second tranche?

Ofcom has identified a further 44 locations where local television is technically feasible on the Freeview platform. These 44 locations are: Aberdeen, Ayr, Bangor, Barnstaple, Basingstoke, Bedford, Bromsgrove, Burnley, Cambridge, Carlisle, Carmarthen, Derry/Londonderry, Dover, Dundee, Elgin, Falkirk, Gloucester, Greenock, Guildford, Haverfordwest, Haywards Heath, Hemel Hempstead, Hereford, Inverness, Keighley, Kidderminster, Lancaster, Limavady, Luton, Maidstone, Malvern, Middlesbrough, Mold, Poole, Reading, Reigate, Salisbury, Scarborough, Shrewsbury, Stoke on Trent, Stratford upon Avon, Telford, Tonbridge and York.

Will there be a minimum amount of (news) content?

Ofcom is not specifying minimum content quantities, for example, in terms of hours of a certain type of programming. This is in order to avoid being too prescriptive, and to encourage a range of creative visions for the programming.

The amount of news and current affairs will vary by licensed area and the type of news that may be provided will be an editorial decision for the local licence holders. The Government anticipates that all operators should be able to provide at least one hour of news content each day and Ofcom has said it would be unlikely to consider less than seven hours in total of broadcast news per week to be too burdensome for even the smallest licensee.

(This does not mean that applicants will be expected to produce an hour of continuous novel news content per day. A fifteen minute bulletin, kept updated and repeated four times a day would count as an hour of news.)

What EPG number will local services have?

DMOL published an interim statement on 6 July (PDF 224kb) confirming they have reserved #8 in England & Northern Ireland and #45 in Wales and Scotland. The changes will take effect from September 2012.

When will the local TV industry body be formed?

Ofcom has decided it will encourage the industry body to form by making it a licence condition that local licensees will be granted ownership of one share in the entity (one share per licence) so that they can come together to form a body best suited to the demands of this sector.

The deadline for licence applications was 13 August 2012 and Ofcom expects to award the first licences from September 2012 onwards. That points to the industry body being established (at least in outline form) by the end of this year/early next but it will depend on the local services deciding for themselves how to take this forward and what areas they want to focus on.

How does the funding work?

The BBC Trust has agreed to invest up to £25 million into capital for the distribution of local TV services. This remains subject to EC State aid approval. In addition, the BBC has agreed to acquire up to £15 million over three years to acquire content from the local TV services. Further information can be found on the BBC website.

Who do I contact if I have more questions?

If your query is related to Ofcom’s licensing process or you would like to make contact with a local TV bidder, please look at Ofcom’s website which gives details of who has applied for a local TV licence.

If you have any other queries, please email the local TV team at DCMS: local.tv@culture.gsi.gov.uk

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