Ministers to set out plans for local TV

Jeremy Hunt MP Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt wants up to 15 major cities to have local TV channels

What would you want to watch if you had your own local TV channel?

It's a question many of us can expect to be asked, as the government puts the finishing touches to its Local Media Action Plan, due out later this month.

It's the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt's pet project.

He told an MPs' select committee recently that he wanted to see a thriving local TV sector so that their constituents, and his, could hold their MPs accountable.

A tale of two Birminghams

Start Quote

Think about Sheffield, Bristol or Birmingham - all major cities that don't have a single local TV station. What is good enough for Dublin or Galway, Lyon or Marseilles, Catalonia or Calgary, is certainly good enough for them”

End Quote Jeremy Hunt

Mr Hunt usually adds Birmingham Alabama to his list, asking how it can be right that the US city has four local TV channels while we here in its UK namesake have none.

So our correspondent David Gregory has been to Alabama to find out how they make it work there.

The most successful of them often have the deep pockets and programme resources of major networks like CBS and Fox News behind them.

But plans here for a national sustaining network, dubbed 'Channel Six', from which local newsrooms would 'opt out' have been shelved.

The vision presented by the merchant banker Nicholas Shott, commissioned by Mr Hunt to report on the commercial feasibility of local television, is much more locally rooted in up to 15 major cities.

Bottom-up rather than top-down, you see.

'Bonfire of regulations'

But the former BBC Director General Greg Dyke has told the Politics Show that the Government should be more ambitious.

Local TV

  • The Shott Report says local TV could be underwritten by a £15 pa advertising contract from existing commercial broadcasters
  • The BBC would contribute £40m towards a start-up fund

He says smaller cities with populations of just 200,000 and similar sized hinterlands could also have their own channels if the potential of local advertising is fully exploited.

But Mr Dyke warns it will take "a bonfire of regulations" to make this work.

He also suggests university media departments could use their TV studios to help produce local programmes.

New TV channels?

So our reporter Ben Godfrey has been to Staffordshire University, whose studios would be the envy of many universities and colleges, to see how this might work in practice.

BBC Politics Show's David Gregory has been to Birmingham, Alabama to find out how they make local TV stations work in the United States. He finds out what lessons UK broadcasters can learn.

And I shall be joined live in the studio by Daniel Cass, the Chief Executive of SIXTV, who wants to set up a new channel covering a significant chunk of South Warwickshire and North Oxfordshire.

I shall also be asking two of our local MPs if they would relish the prospect of being held to account by local TV as Jeremy Hunt suggests.

I hope you can join us too, at the earlier time of 11:00 on Sunday morning.

Patrick Burns Article written by Patrick Burns Patrick Burns Political editor, Midlands

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  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    I think this is a crazy idea and will thin-out existing viewers to a wider range of available channels, most of which broadcast endless repeats. I would prefer to see broadcast on the existing channels more programmes about the constituent countries that make up the (so called?) united kingdom. i.e. I live in berkshire, england but would prefer to receive and watch what is broadcast in Wales.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    How will they be reguilated? - the real Tory Agenda could be to create a network of locally based Fox News type outlets, peopled by the likes of Glen Beck - to provide tory propaganda, counter the objectivity of the BBC and further undermine the democratic process. It will be interesting to see how they wil be regulated in practice and how many of them end up in the hands of News International

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    I think both BBC and ITV plc should continue to provide Regional News/Programming for England and Wales. However in England, I believe the traditional BBC and ITV Television regions should be amended to the current government regions. I believe this could then possibly then allow local TV to thrive.

    P.S - BBC and ITV please stop ignoring the West Midlands area, especially Birmingham!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    In the past, the two major broadcasters had a more equitable regional policy. Network production was spread around many regions, the budget for regional programming greater. Now Birmingham is the largest city in Europe without a TV studio. No wonder others can see the gap in the market that is offered by local TV. Being on Freeview will be essential and a slice of the licence fee would be fair.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    We in Gloucestershire would surely welcome a local TV channel. The local news we receive in Cheltenham is 98.5% Birmingham and Black Country based and of little interest. We see more Gloucestershire coverage on BBC local broadcasts when visiting relatives in Somerset.


Comments 5 of 8


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