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Local TV service licences consultation goes live

10 August 2011

The UK Government is preparing to award 9 local TV licences for Scotland through a competitive selection process run by Ofcom, to broadcast targeted and relevant local content including news, current affairs and entertainment programmes.
To this end a consultation process is currently underway - it ends on September 23rd 2011.  
Ofcom has published a list of potential locations for local TV following the conclusion of detailed technical planning work that it says should enable a new local TV market to emerge on a scale never achieved before. In Scotland these locations are:

Primary localtion
Coverage also includes



Arbroath / Perth




East Kilbride, Motherwell, Paisley



Through a proposed framework, Westminster is addressing barriers to entry and creating regulatory incentives, although it will not be mandating ownership structures or business models for prospective licencees. The Department of Media Culture & Sport says it will be up to the market to respond to this framework and bid for the relevant licence or licences in support of business plans and having regard to anticipated revenues and costs.
The UK Government wants this licensing framework to create an opportunity for businesses to come together as a network if that makes commercial sense; it also seeks to drive down capital and transmission costs for the local licensees and ensure good quality local TV provision within an environment that is economically stable and has regulatory certainty.
Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "These new, local TV services will be a fundamental change in how people get information about their own communities, and how they hold their representatives to account.
"There's a huge appetite for local information, news and views in communities the length and breadth of the country and I want people to be able to watch television that's relevant to them."
However, the proposed Scottish locations have not met with the approval of Hunt's Scottish Government counterpart, Fiona Hyslop, who supports the idea of a digital TV channel dedicated to Scottish content and paid for out of the TV licence fee - the Scottish Digital Network, as proposed by the Scottish Broadcasting Commission three years ago.
In a statement, she said: "Local TV services have the potential to bring benefits to viewers across Scotland. However, the UK Government's plans fall far short of the mark. We have real concerns about Jeremy Hunt's proposals which would leave gaping holes in provision, particularly in rural areas.
"Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders are arguably the parts of Scotland most in need of local television. Viewers there currently receive local news on Channel 3 which is broadcast from Gateshead. Nothing in these inadequate proposals will deliver benefits for viewers in these areas, which are not even on the list of eligible locations..
"We firmly believe that a publicly-funded Scottish Digital Network is the best way to sustain and support local television services in Scotland. Our vision for a national network would serve viewers the length and breadth of the country - not just the largest centres of population which are commercially attractive - as well as meeting the need for choice in public service broadcasting in Scotland."
Creating the framework
Subject to the outcome of the consultation on these legislative proposals, the Government intends to lay an order under section 5 of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006 to reserve sufficient amounts of geographic interleaved spectrum for the carriage of licensed local digital television services; an order under section 244 of the Communications Act 2003 which will create a new licensing regime and tie the new local services together with the spectrum licence holder; and an order under section 310 of the Communications Act 2003 to add the section 244 local digital television services to the list of public service channels and therefore achieve Electronic Progrmme Guide (EPG) prominence.  The Government intends to lay these orders, which will create the new local TV framework, in Autumn 2011.
Potential locations for a licensed pioneer local TV service
Ofcom says that the 9 primary locations in Scotland have been identified by considering the number of terrestrial television transmitters that serve the largest number of people across the country. 
For each of these transmitters, Ofcom has assessed the available spectrum, trying to identify a frequency that could permit the broadcasting of an additional digital television multiplex without causing undue interference to the other television multiplexes.  Where a suitable frequency was found to be available, coverage maps, available from Ofcom, were produced.
The largest settlement in each location that is shown to be served by the transmitter has been taken as the ‘principal' settlement for that area (shown under the ‘primary location' column).  The list also details other sizeable settlements which are served by that single transmitter (shown in the ‘coverage also includes' column).
How to respond
Consultation responses should be submitted to the Department of Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) by Friday 23 September 2011. E-mail  or post to:
Peter Bakewell
Media Team
Department for Culture, Media and Sport
2-4 Cockspur Street