Ofcom earmarks 20 local TV locations

TV sets in shop The local stations will have to be commercially viable

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Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has unveiled 20 UK towns and cities which are expected to get their own local TV stations.

The first 'pioneer' areas include Belfast, Brighton and Hove, Cardiff, Glasgow, Grimsby, London, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Swansea.

The locations were whittled down from 65 towns and cities which applied earlier this year.

The government hopes to license the first local stations from summer 2012.

"I am confident these new stations will provide local communities with programming which is relevant to their daily lives, will support local democracy, boost the big society and enhance local communities," said Mr Hunt.

The other areas included are Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Leeds, Norwich, Nottingham, Oxford, Plymouth, Preston and Southampton.

Analysis

The big issue is how local TV will be paid for.

Jeremy Hunt has found it hard to convince established media companies that local TV is viable without Government funding - but groups in these 20 cities think it can be made to work.

Some set-up costs will be paid for out of the licence fee - £40m was earmarked for local TV in the latest settlement with the BBC.

But beyond this, Mr Hunt has made it clear the services must be self-sustaining, funded by advertising.

Mr Hunt says: "Local TV providers will need to produce quality content that people want to watch, which in turn will make it attractive to advertisers."

That is easier said than done, as ITV and local radio companies are finding.

The Government says the local services must be given "appropriate prominence" on the electronic programme guide, to make it easy for viewers to find their local station.

The towns and cities earmarked were chosen by media watchdog Ofcom, which examined the interest from potential operators and local audiences, as well as ensuring the projects were technically viable.

Ofcom will now begin a further consultation on those areas, starting at the end of next week.

The process is expected to take between eight and 12 weeks, after which the licences will be awarded.

A further 24 areas have been identified for a future round of licensing, including four in Scotland - Aberdeen, Ayr, Dundee and Inverness.

Mold and Bangor in Wales and Barnstaple, Basingstoke, Bedford, Cambridge, Carlisle, Guildford, Hereford, Kidderminster, Luton, Maidstone, Malvern, Salisbury, Sheffield, Stoke on Trent, Stratford upon Avon and York in England have named.

Londonderry and Limavady in Northern Ireland have also been singled out.

Legislation enabling the stations to be set up has still to be passed, but this is expected to be laid down shortly.

The BBC licence fee will finance some start-up costs, but advertising is likely to fund the services.

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