Hunt sets out ambitious plans for local TV

Commercial broadcasters could lose their prime slots on Electronic Programming Guides if they fail to support local TV, culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has warned.

However, the plans will not affect traditional broadcasters such as ITV and Channel 4. Instead, channels further down the guide can aim to ‘promote’ their position by assisting the scheme.

Hunt is insisting that commercial broadcasters take share of the responsibility of promoting local TV, with the withdrawal of prime EPG slots acting as a catalyst to encourage channels to help.

“My vision is of a landscape of local TV services broadcasting for as little as one hour a day,” Hunt told the Royal Television Society. “Free to affiliate to one another in a way that brings down costs, and able to exploit the potential of new platforms such as YouView and mobile TV to grow their service and improve cost-effectiveness.”

But Hunt’s plans to push local TV back into the spotlight by creating a network of up to 80 local stations have been criticised by some experts.

Nicholas Shott, head of a panel advising the government on local TV, has said that advertising alone will not be enough to keep the proposals financially alive, coinciding with a report by Ofcom that using broadband as a distribution method will result in issues ranging from cost to geographical reach, a problem compounded by Hunt’s decision to push back universal fast broadband to 2015.

The BBC has already stated that its involvement in Hunt’s plans will be “limited”.

(Source: Press Gazette, MediaGuardian)

This article appears in issue 254o of Media Digest.

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