BBC News

Ministers to set out plans for local TV

Patrick Burns
Political editor, Midlands

image copyrightbbc
image captionCulture 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

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.

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.

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.