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Local TV stations slow to take off, admits Ofcom

Only a fifth of the UK’s local television network is up and running two years after the first licences were awarded, the broadcasting watchdog has admitted.

Six local TV channels have made it to the airwaves so far, having broadcast some 6,400 hours of local programmes to a potential audience of six million across Britain.

A further 10 are preparing to launch by next February which will leave almost half of the original 30 licence holders yet to deliver a start date, licence overlord Ofcom reports in its progress update.

Grimsby won the race to launch a local TV station on digital terrestrial television last November followed by Norwich and London in March, Nottingham in May, Glasgow in June and Brighton and Hove last month.

There have been early teething troubles with London slashing its viewing hours while City TV went into administration – forcing the need to transfer the Birmingham licence to a suitable new bidder.

Ofcom admits: “The nature of awarding licences for a new type of service in a competitive media market means that it is very unlikely that all channels will succeed.

“This is an inherent feature of the nature of awarding a large number of licences for a new service across very different parts of the UK.”

A second phase of licensing is already under way and there is continued interest from potential applicants in launching channels, according to Ofcom.


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  • September 23, 2014 at 8:50 am

    Emperors Clothes
    Will be about as successful as when Newspaper Groups rushed headlong into the Local Radio License goldrush. Most did a bad job and lost a lot of money.
    If you want to do it, write a free app for Smart TV, create a Youtube channel create hourly bulletins and put them on your website as well as embedding them in your Mobile Apps.
    Buying local broadcast licences is all about Vanity.
    Carefully building a coherent digital / print strategy is sanity.

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  • September 23, 2014 at 9:54 am

    Local TV should work if it is good. Regional news as run by BBC is spread too thin

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  • September 23, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    Very nice of Ofcom to charge thousands to submit and application, have ongoing licence fees and then turn around and say ‘some of you will die’.

    I agree with Mr Smith – web publishing is the way forward, for local TV especially.

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  • September 23, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    Local TV will never work. Who in their right mind wants to watch it, other than a brief roundup on a once daily basis.

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  • September 23, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    Phil – local TV can work, but it needs vision and verve, not the shite London Live is dishing up.
    I actually considered applying or my area licence but the high cost of applying meant the idea is a non-starter. However, for what it’s worth, my licence application would have been along these lines:

    An hour-long weekday breakfast show offering travel updates, fluffy features and highlights of day ahead; some material repeated in second hour with fresh travel bulletins.

    Focus on peaktime – 7pm-10pm every day.
    – Magazine show at 8pm, a la One Show
    – Build up a library of local am dram/choirs/bands in concert
    – Local sports round-up, including live darts, snooker and pub leagues
    – Local quiz in style of Brain of Britain
    – Local bands jamming in pubs
    – Film reviews, theatre previews and gig guides
    – Property on market show
    – Local cookery shows (several celebrity chefs on our doorstep plus several good bloggers)
    – Tech show
    – Business weekly
    – Old Peter: a magazine show for older viewers with contribs from Age Concern etc
    – Weekly church service broadcast
    – Some kind of zoo format show for children on Saturdays
    – A daily news bulletin of no longer than 10 minutes

    Loads of scope for good local programming, done in the Ally Pally style and nothing lasting more than 30 minutes. A lot would have to be single camera set-ups, some could be filmed on mobiles (yes, really) some could be filmed on location.

    But it would all have to be community based like hospital radio. Use it as a training ground and then go and use it as a calling card.

    Above all, the licence fees and the low advertising potential (given low viewership) makes the idea a difficult sell.

    The internet is the way forward, especially as people will want to do time-shifted catch-up viewing rather than linear ‘here’s what’s on’.

    Will be amazed if London Live is still alive by Christmas.

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  • September 24, 2014 at 11:06 am

    If you want to see why this medium does not work just tune in,if you can,to Archants god awful Mustard TV,its cringeingly bad output must serve as a warning to other media groups even thinking of pitching for a local tv license.
    Amateur production values, embarrassingly bad green screen sets and falsely over enthusiastic presenters coupled with dire content and pitiful commercial support make for a vanity project that must surely be draining Archants rapidly depleted coffers.
    Be interesting to see how long the new CEO and chairman allow this Partridge-esque station to continue.

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  • September 25, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    Agree with the commenters above. There’s a growing audience for short, on-demand videos and it’s never been cheaper to produce quality content of this kind. You can pick up a decent high-end consumer camcorder, a shotgun mic and tripod for about £1,000 and you’re off.

    It doesn’t make you a television station, and it won’t work if your newsroom is already under-staffed and under-trained, but in principle it enables you to produce compelling video reports for the web.

    By contrast, a TV station is a beast that must be fed around the clock or you’ll end up with dead air – and that’s to say nothing of the ongoing overhead costs of a broadcast licence. If even a London-based channel can’t cook up enough interesting content to bring in the viewers, what hope for the smaller cities and towns?

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