Jeremy Hunt has given his clearest indication yet that he will scrap plans for a nationally-led television channel housing local TV services.
Around a third of the 140 organisations that expressed an interest in running a local TV service shunned the culture secretary’s initial idea for a national “spine” with opt-outs for local content.
It forced Hunt to admit today that a “bottom up” approach would be “more feasible and faster to deliver”.
Under this less prescriptive delivery model, up to 50 licences would be auctioned off to local TV consortia, allowing them to form their own network.
“Within the right regulatory framework, a series of individual stations could be more financially secure without reliance on a dominant network centre, and could be implemented much faster through secondary legislation,” the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said in a statement.
Hunt, who has yet to make a final decision, added: “I have been particularly struck by the large number of local groups – particularly outside London – who are keen to deliver this for their own communities.”
The culture secretary will set out his final proposals by the end of July, where he will address other issues around the technical capacity for a new digital terrestrial television channel and where it will sit on the electronic programme guide.
Hunt first hinted at the change in direction for local TV delivery during a Broadcasting Press Guild event last month and today published a 16-page summary of the 140 responses from interested parties.
Around a third of the respondents, including vocal bidder Channel 6, supported the idea of a national network, while others favoured the bottom up approach.
Many felt that the economics of creating a new DTT channel would be “challenging” and some said that the channel should rely more on local advertising revenue rather than a central, nationally funded business model.
There was consensus there should be between 10 and 20 locations for local TV services, ranging from the UK’s major cities to rural locations.
Click here for the full summary of responses.