London set for its own TV station as Ofcom invites bids for franchise

09:32 11 May 2012

Richard Horwood of Channel 6 Group pressing for satellite slot

Richard Horwood of Channel 6 Group pressing for satellite slot


London is on track to get its own local TV station as bids were invited for potential operators to apply for a licence to run the new service.

It is one of the first 21 areas across the UK being offered franchises next year, under Government plans for a new network of city-based channels.

Ofcom, the broadcast industry’s independent regulator, opened the bidding following yesterday’s announcement from Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

“I hope to see exciting bids for the new TV channel,” he said. “Local TV will provide communities with news and content relevant to their daily lives.”

Potential operators now have until August 13 to apply for a licence to be awarded based on criteria including local news and current affairs, programmes, proposed date for going on air and viability of their business plan.

But leading figures from the television industry fear the London station won’t be get reception in every household if it is allocated just one slot on Freeview on medium power, as proposed by Ofcom, which they say won’t reach the whole area because of reception blackspots.

They argue that a London station—unlike the other 20 dotted around the UK—needs satellite and cable outlets as part of the franchise to reach all five million households and also needs prominent listing to be commercially viable.

Ofcom has already approached carriers to see what they are prepared to offer the new station, which on Sky satellite is understood to be slot 117.

But some bidders are pressing for the 106 slot currently held by Sky1 and Slot 6 on Freeview occupied by ITV2 as the new ‘public service’ station would legally be entitled to follow BBC 1 and 2, ITV1, C4 and C5 in the listing.

One potential applicant, appropriately-named Channel 6 Group, says Sky’s offer of slot 117 is “a step in the right direction—but not the right answer.”

Its chief executive Richard Horwood explained: “Ofcom has the powers to move channels—it mustn’t duck its legal responsibility.

“We as a bidder have no bargaining power with the world’s biggest TV carrier.

“But Ofcom has that power to do the bargaining on our behalf.”

The first 21 areas for local TV were selected by Ofcom for having enough interest from potential operators. The flagship London franchise is the biggest. Others in the south are Norwich, Brighton, Southampton, Bristol, Oxford and Plymouth.

Those in the rest of the UK are Edinburgh, Glasgow, Belfast, Cardiff, Swansea, Birmingham, Grimsby, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Preston and Sheffield.

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