Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that running a local TV station is now cheaper than producing a local newspaper.
Mr Hunt’s plans for a nationwide network of hyperlocal channels – some run by newspaper groups – have been criticised by some industry leaders as not commercially viable.
But speaking at the Royal Television Society annual convention in Cambridge, Mr Hunt claimed he had now addressed these concerns.
And he claimed that despite industry scepticism there was widespread enthusiasm for the plans among local stakeholders.
“Many think I have been not so much bold as foolhardy to keep pressing on with plans for local TV. Some from the London media establishment are still sceptical. It won’t be viable, no one will watch it and…most extraordinary of all we shouldn’t want people to watch it anyway,” he told the gathering.
“But when I announced in August that in the next two years Ofcom will be awarding up to 65 local TV licenses, the reaction outside London was amazing. Packed meetings – sometimes with standing room only – in Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Cardiff, Glasgow and Belfast.
“Why? Because the plans I announced dealt with the single biggest reservation people have had about local TV, namely its commercial viability.
“They have for the first time reduced the cost of running a new station to below the level of running a local newspaper.
“As a result it is possible that by 2015 more than half the population of the country will be able to access a good quality local TV service.
“We will have a brand new sector for the creative industries, creating jobs for journalists and opportunities for independent production companies.”
Mr Hunt went on to put the case for a new cross-platform regulator to replace the Press Complaints Commission, with a remit covering websites as well as newspapers.
“If British media organisations are to develop world-beating cross-platform offerings, we need to offer sensible cross-platform regulation as well,” he said.
“It cannot be sensible to regulate newsprint through the PCC, on-demand websites through Atvod and IPTV through Ofcom.
“My challenge to you is this: work with us to establish a credible, independent regulatory framework which has the confidence of consumers and we will support it as the one-stop regulatory framework to be applied across all the technology platforms you operate.”