Media regulator Ofcom has defended its record of awarding local TV licenses and says it’s an “inherent feature” of a competitive media market that not all channels will survice.
The local TV initiative was set up by the Government in 2011 to ensure viewers had access to programmes and news content about their area.
Channels broadcast only in their specific area and compete with established broadcasters such as ITV and the BBC.
A number of critics have expressed concerns about the viability of the new channels and one, Birmingham’s BLTV, has gone bust without ever broadcasting a single hour of programming.
London Live, backed by the owners of the Evening Standard newspaper, has recently asked for permission to reduce the amount of local content it shows, prompting threats of a judicial review from some of the unsuccessful bidders for the London franchise if Ofcom grants the request.
Defending its record in awarding the licenses, Ofcom says the six channels which are up and running have “broadcast some 6,400 hours of local programmes to a potential audience of six million across the UK.”
It also says “more than 10 stations are preparing for launch before February 2015” and confirms a second wave of licensing, including for Aberdeen, Ayr, Carlisle, Dundee, Forth Valley, Inverness and Stoke on Trent, will continue.
In a statement the organisation added: “In awarding local TV licences, Ofcom conducts a thorough assessment of the bids to select the one that best meets the requirements set by Parliament, such as meeting the needs of the local area.
“Bidders must demonstrate that they would be financially sustainable and provide evidence that funding is in place, or would be if their application was successful. When awarding a licence, Ofcom carefully considers these factors and makes the best decision it can on the available evidence.
“However, the nature of awarding licences for a new type of service in a competitive media market means that it is very unlikely that all channels will succeed. This is an inherent feature of the nature of awarding a large number of licences for a new service across very different parts of the UK.”