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Esther Rantzen ‘ready to rescue city TV plan’

Consumer champion Esther Rantzen is ready to “ride to the rescue” of plans for a local TV station in Britain’s second city after the government revealed it could be forced to re-advertise the licence.

The licence to deliver local TV services in Birmingham was awarded in November 2012 to BLTV – headed by former Birmingham City Council spin doctor Debra Davis.

However the 74-year-old ChildLine campaigner and former star of That’s Life is thought to be waiting in the wings if BLTV fails to meet a 6 November launch deadline.

Ms Rantzen, pictured, is part of the That’s Media group, which has already been awarded licences for Oxford, the Solent, Basingstoke, Reading, Surrey and Salisbury.

Selly Oak MP Steve McCabe has tabled questions in the House of Commons over delays to the Birmingham licence getting off the ground and Culture Minister Ed Vaizey is ready to re-start the whole tender process if necessary.

“The word on the street is that the Esther Rantzen group is looking closely at Birmingham if City TV really is dead,” a source told HTFP. “Time is running out for the licence holders.”

Former Dudley Herald journalist Peter Brookes ,who spearheaded the Made TV bid in Birmingham which eventually lost out to City TV, said: “Birmingham has got to be one of the most attractive licences of the lot because it is Britain’s second city.

“We always thought that Made TV was a very good bid and Ofcom congratulated us on the quality of that bid. If the franchise were to be re-advertised, I am sure that Made TV would be interested,” added Peter, also a veteran of Central TV’s newsroom and ex-managing director of Manchester United TV.

Other interested parties for the Birmingham jewel in the local licence crown included former Central head of sport Gary Newbon, part of a consortium behind YourTV.

Birmingham-based Anita Bhalla, director of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership and chairman of the Creative City Partnership, said the city was missing out and called for the tendering process to start again.

She added “It’s a pity that the Birmingham licence has not been activated to date. A good local TV station would be very beneficial to the city on lots of fronts.

“I would say that it should go back to a formal tender. It would be a pity if we became a franchise in a national group rather than having a local voice.”

Daniel Cass, managing director of That’s Media whose brand launches in the autumn, said it intends to give “a world-class, 24-hour local TV service from day one, providing challenging journalism in the mould for which our directors are renowned.”