Hunt favours individual stations for local television plan

Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has backtracked on his plans to introduce a local TV network.

Hunt originally wanted a single network channel – based around a ‘national spine’ – before changing to a more locally run approach.

After a consultation, the culture secretary changed the proposals, and has now settled on a final published framework.

Hunt‘s original plans would have seen a centralised national channel with syndicated programming, which would act as the hub which local channels could feed.

Instead, the final plan favours a network of individual TV stations.

Hunt said he planned to provide bidders with a digital terrestrial TV spectrum, managed by a new licensed multiplex company.

The next task for Hunt is to, in his words, “secure prominence” for the network on Freeview and other electronic programme guides.

In a written ministerial statement, Hunt said: “The proposals include three statutory instruments: the first, to reserve sufficient local, low-cost spectrum for carrying the local TV services; the second to create a proportionate and targeted licensing regime for the spectrum and local TV service operators; and the third, to secure appropriate prominence for the licensed local services in television electronic programme guides.”

“Local TV will provide news and other content for local audiences helping to hold local institutions to account and providing proper local perspectives. This framework offers the right incentives to the market to develop innovative business models; provides greater certainty and reduced risk for investors; and encourages new market opportunities and growth,” he added.

“It is expected the first local television licences will be awarded by Ofcom from summer 2012.”

The infrastructure costs will be met from £25 million allocated as part of the BBC licence fee settlement.

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