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Bid by news agency boss for fourth local TV licence rejected

Chris Johnson

A bid to run a city’s local TV station by a company which has already successfully won three licences has been rejected.

Media regulator Ofcom has turned down a bid by Bay TV to run TV services in Stoke after raising concerns about the proposed business model.

Bay TV is run by Chris Johnson, pictured left, a consultant and former managing director for Liverpool-based press agency Mercury Press, and it has already won local TV licences for Liverpool, Swansea and Mold.

But in March last year, a further bid to run TV services in Bangor by the company was turned down after Ofcom raised similar issues about the business model.

Bay TV was the only applicant to run the Channel 8 service in Stoke so Ofcom’s decision means the city will not have a local TV station unless the regulator readvertises for new bidders.

In its decision, Ofcom said that after careful consideration, its Broadcast Licensing Committee was “not satisfied” that Bay TV had put forward “a credible business model to maintain the proposed service for the length of the licence period”.

Chris told HTFP that he was “very disappointed” that the licence had not been awarded and said if the licence was readvertised, the company would consider making another application.

He said: “We devoted a great amount of time and effort to creating a robust business model that would deliver a station worthy of the region.

“We also developed a dynamic partnership with Staffordshire University that envisaged students from its journalism department working closely with staff from the station.

“Ofcom’s Broadcast Licensing Committee said that our application passed the their test for delivering station that would meet the needs of the area.

“However, without giving an explanation, the committee cast doubt on elements of our business plan, suggesting that our predictions for advertising revenue were too optimistic.

“In fact, we were relatively conservative about the levels of revenue to be generated from advertising, but it would appear that Ofcom had less faith than us in the potential.

“I believe that Stoke needs and deserves local TV and we were determined to create a station that would have been a real asset to the city.”

In its decision, Ofcom’s decision: “The BLC judged that the applicant’s projected advertising revenues were highly optimistic and would be extremely difficult to achieve, and that they were combined with a high cost-base.

“Though the Committee considered that the Stoke coverage area offered sufficient population coverage such that a commercial proposition could be viable, the ambitious nature of the specific business plan proposed by BTVS taken with the specific nature of the proposed programme service, gave the Committee considerable reason to doubt that the applicant would be able to maintain such a service for the duration of the licence period.”

Bay TV was proposing to broadcast 22.5 hours of local programming for Stoke if it had been awarded the licence.