Headlines: March 18th, 2008

Networked public service content covering interests such as health and social issues could be brought to the screens of local TV viewers if a campaign for local TV is successful. Regional programme makers could produce documentaries about current affairs with social action content. Councils and other public bodies could get their messages across through local advertising.

The campaign by United for Local Television, an umbrella group representing a number of local television practitioners, advocates and voluntary organisations from the commercial, community and municipal sectors, has gained support from 120 Membersof Parliament. The MPs, from across the political spectrum, have signed an Early Day Motion demanding that the Government introduce a local television network on Freeview before switching off the analogue TV signals. The analogue TV signals switch is due between now and 2012. This will enable the expansion of the Freeview digital platform from around 70 per cent household coverage today to almost 100 per cent coverage at switchover.

The proposal would see the introduction of “Channel6” as a new local channel broadcasting on the Freeview platform. The new Channel, which would be available throughout the UK, would be a local channel offering local news, local programming and local advertising. Channel 6 would also carry ‘networked’ public service content covering interests such as the arts, business, industry, rural affairs, and tourism.

The Government is committed to the expansion of local TV.Section 244 of the Communications Act 2003 gives the Culture Secretary the ability to enact a Local Digital Television Order which would roll out local TV services across the UK. MPs are now calling on the Government to enact these provisions. Local TVis the most demanded new application in Ofcom’s Digital Dividend Review research. According to Ofcom, “localTV on Freeview” is the number one new application personally demanded by the UK public, ahead of both “extra SD channels” and “HD on Freeview”.