Heralded as the future of Broadcasting, this was the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt’s big scheme for the nation during his time at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
In 2012, 21 areas were assigned for companies to tender for the right to broadcast, with only 19 successfully awarded for a period of 12 years each. Some areas had multiple bids, some only had one, including the one closest to me, from Grimsby, called Estuary TV. Even though this scheme was new, Estuary had a big advantage as it had been running locally through Cable services as Channel 7 since 1998.
Phase one complete, the Government started phase two, with 28 new areas and the 2 areas that failed to get bids. This tendering process is still ongoing at this time (October 2014), with just a handful of channels actually launched in their respective areas.
One major setback to this process, was the licence given to CityTV, latterly known as City8, in Birmingham. The largest city in the UK outside of London, this demographic was to broadcast to over 2 million people per week. The station never made it to fruition, as it went into administration in August 2014 due to lack of funding.
So far, of the 19 licences awarded in Phase One, only around half a dozen have so far made it to air. To be awarded a licence is one thing, but to make it to air is a whole new ball game.
OFCOM in September 2014, admitted that there is a possibility that not all current licence holders will make it to air, as it is a very competitive market. Other TV and Radio Stations are all competing for the funding that will keep them alive, in these times of austerity.
Hyper local Television services, in my opinion, do have their place in the multiplexes, in this world of Digital television, but the large cost of setting up these companies does make it harder for them to come to air.
As we have seen with Birmingham, this heralded new dawn in Local TV, is not without it’s pitfalls, and it could be that more never see the light of day.
Grimsby, Norwich, Nottingham, Glasgow, Brighton and Hove, and London all have their channels operating, although not without their own teething problems. London Live launched at the end of March 2014 from premises that are also home to The Independent, and the London Evening Standard. London Live together with these publications are owned by Lebedev Holdings. Although only having being in existence for a few months, the management company at London Live approached OFCOM to change their programming structure. The first proposal was thrown out, but a less radical change was finally accepted by OFCOM at the start of October. Even with large backing behind a company, the cutthroat world of media affects all who come to the table.
The best way to describe the current Local TV process, is that of a small child learning to walk. There has been progress, with the odd fall, and things will improve, but it is likely that there will be more bumps and scrapes along the way.