Local TV channels plan to create national spine

Seventeen local TV channels have come together to request a reduction in the amount of local programming they must broadcast, paving the way for a shared national 'spine' schedule of entertainment programmes.

Stations serving Basingstoke, Belfast, Carlisle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Grimsby, Guildford, Edinburgh, Manchester, Norwich, Nottingham, Oxford, Preston, Reading, Salisbury, Scarborough and Southampton would be affected by the move instigated by the Local TV Network, acting on behalf of the three organisations that operate the local channels - That's TV, Notts TV and Northern Visions TV.

Under the proposals, each channel would have their current programming commitments amended so that schedules could be aligned to cater for a joint national general entertainment service, benefiting from national advertising.

Effectively, the network of local channels would begin sharing a schedule in a similar manner to the ITV network pre-consolidation.

No further information about the content of the programming, beyond it being entertainment-led, has been provided.

According to the proposals, made public by Ofcom today, depending on the size of the city served by each channel, each channel would be obliged to broadcast between 1 hour to 1.25 hours a day of local programming, with the exception of Manchester, where the local channel would still be obligated to screen 3.5 hours a day.

Plans for a national spine to support local TV channels were dropped in 2011 by the then Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt in favour of "more financially secure individual stations".

Initial funding from the licence fee for the local TV stations has now mostly dried up, with the exception of those local channels that launched last, including Scarborough's That's TV North Yorkshire, which is still within the three year launch period that qualifies stations to receive licence fee money in return for news content that can be used by the BBC.

Ofcom has said it is minded to approve the request, but because the changes will mean a departure from the current character of service, it will consult until 7th August. Details here...

Ofcom has already approved a request by That's TV Cambridge to reduce its commitments surrounding repeat-runs of local programming, while That's TV York is already running with much lower local programming commitments.

In a separate development, Sheffield's local channel Sheffield Live TV has also requested a change in its local TV commitments after being chastised by Ofcom last year for failing to screen sufficient amounts of local programming in peak time.

The proposals for Sheffield Live TV include a reduction in the amount of first-run local programming that is broadcast within peak hours and more generally across the service. A separate consultation running until 7th August 2019 is underway. Details here...

  • Local TV channels are found on either Freeview channel 7 or 8, depending on location.

[source: Ofcom]