More than 60 towns and cities are in the running to host the UK's first local television services, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced.
Licences will be advertised later this year, and Mr Hunt will urge local communities to make their case to be included in the first wave.
The first licences are due to be awarded next year.
The licence fee will finance some start-up costs, but advertising is likely to fund the services.
"There's a huge appetite for local news and information in communities the length and breadth of the country," Mr Hunt said.
"I want people to be able to watch television that's truly relevant to them, about what's happening where they live and featuring the people they know."
The towns and cities chosen would receive local TV from existing transmitters.
Areas eligible to bid include cities such as Birmingham and Cardiff and towns including Malvern and Basingstoke.
A map of the UK has been published detailing the 65 towns and cities in the running for the licences, which will be issued by media watchdog Ofcom.
Licences will be awarded after the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has judged the level of interest from potential broadcasters and audiences.
In the longer term, Mr Hunt believes there is potential for local TV to be broadcast over the internet.
He has long championed the concept of US-style local television where many cities, rather than wider regions, have their own news and entertainment coverage.
In an interview at last year's Edinburgh International Television Festival, Mr Hunt described the UK media as "chronically over-centralised".
He said: "It is crazy that a city like Sheffield, for example, does not have its own television station like it would have in most other developed countries."
The government's goal is to license the first local TV stations from summer 2012, with 10-20 local services in operation by 2015.