London Live, the local TV station operated by the owners of London’s Evening Standard newspaper, has been refused permission to alter the channel’s programming mix.
In 2011 the Government ordered media regulator Ofcom to allocate space on Freeview to new regional channels 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.
So far just six channels, including London Live, are up and running but Ofcom yesterday defended its progress in licensing broadcasters and said ten further channels will be on air by earlier 2015.
In July London Live applied for permission to reduce the amount of local content it shows, and to water down a commitment to provide ‘hyper-local’ content from each of the capital’s 33 boroughs.
The application prompted threats of a judicial review from some of the unsuccessful bidders for the London franchise if Ofcom granted the request.
On Tuesday the regulator rejected the application, saying it would dilute the service on offer to Londoners.
Ofcom’s Broadcast Licensing Committee said the original promise to include hyper-local programming “had been a particularly important factor in the award of the Licence to ESTV.”
It said the request to alter to committee from “will include” hyper-local programming to “where available will include” hyper-local programming “result in a very significant weakening of these elements of the Programming Commitments, to the extent that it was difficult to see how these could be regarded as meaningful Programming Commitments.”
In a detailed statement of refusal, the committee ruled that “the overall effect of the requested changes would be to substantially alter the character of the service.”