[comtv-l] The Guardian: Jeremy Hunt drops plan for new national TV network

CMA-L cma-l at commedia.org.uk
Mon Jul 18 20:26:31 BST 2011

Jason Deans, guardian.co.uk, Monday 18 July 2011 18.38 BST

Jeremy Hunt, the culture secretary, has confirmed that he is ditching
a proposed new national TV network to provide a "spine" for a new
generation of local services.

Publishing his final proposals for establishing a new generation of
local TV services on Monday, Hunt said that instead he intended to
provide bidders with digital terrestrial TV spectrum, to be allocated
and managed by a new licensed multiplex company.

Hunt's Department for Culture, Media and Sport also said it planned to
secure "appropriate prominence" for local TV services on electronic
programme guides, "with high numbers on DTT [Freeview] and front page
access on cable and satellite platforms".

The DCMS also confirmed as previously announced that £25m in local TV
infrastructure costs will be met from the BBC licence fee, with a
further £5m of licence fee money to be spent annually for three years
on local content.

"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," Hunt said in a written
ministerial statement.

"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."

Ivan Lewis, the Labour shadow culture secretary, said the announcement
had been "rushed out to deflect attention from Jeremy Hunt's
discomfort at the News Corp/BSkyB debacle".

"We now know he has ditched the idea of a national TV spine and is
still unable to provide satisfactory answers about the viability of
local TV and whether it represents good value for money," Lewis added.

"In the period ahead I will be asking searching questions to ensure
local TV is being developed in the public interest and is a good use
of BBC licence fee payers' money."

The DCMS said a further update would be published in the summer giving
an assessment of the potential number of local TV licences likely to
be up for grabs.

EPG providers such as Freeview, Sky and Virgin Media will be required
to give "appropriate prominence" to licensed local digital TV
services, enforced through Ofcom statutory code, which will require
secondary legislation.

Hunt had already backed away from the idea of a new national TV
"spine" network after the proposal met with widespread opposition from
potential local TV bidders fearful that they would be dominated by the
operator of the new channel.

However, the DCMS said local TV operators might come together to form
a new network if it made commercial sense. It suggested bidders
interested in pursuing this option should make their case to media
regulator Ofcom in the contract applications.

The DCMS said amendments would be required to the Communications Act
2003 and Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006 to implement the new local TV

After implementing the necessary secondary legislation, Ofcom will run
a competition for a licence for a new multiplex company that will be
awarded a package of 8MHz interleaved DTT spectrum.

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/jul/18/jeremy-hunt-drops-plan-new-national-tv-network


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