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19/01/2011

Jeremy Hunt Outlines Local TV Plans

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has unveiled plans to allow companies to run local TV stations.
Speaking at the Oxford Media Convention, Mr Hunt said the initiative would offer communities a "new voice" and provide local perspectives directly relevant to them.
The Action Plan, which builds on the Shott report published last month, proposes broadcasting the channels on Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) and displaying them prominently on the Electronic Programme Guide (EPG).
New and existing media providers have been invited to register their interest by March 1 and come forward with suggestions on how a channel dedicated to local news and content could work best.
Mr Hunt said the goal was to award licences by the end of 2012 and for local TV to be "up and running" soon after.
Mr Hunt said: "For consumers, what this will mean is a new channel dedicated to the provision of local news and content - one that will sit alongside other public service broadcasters, offering a new voice for local communities, with local perspectives that are directly relevant to them. So, I am inviting all potential providers to register their interest with my department by March 1, with the formal process scheduled to begin early this summer."
He added that the Government will not be prescriptive about the number of areas around the country that will be involved and will wait to see what commercially viable proposals come forward.
The Culture Secretary also told the conference that a thorough review of media and communications will be carried out, leading to a new Communications Act.
The new act will aim to allow the UK's digital and creative industries to move to the next stage and play their fullest possible role in promoting competition, innovation and economic growth. Mr Hunt said Government would talk to industry about the key issues in the coming months and publish a Green Paper at the end of the year that will set out the full scope of the Bill.
Commenting on the plans, Michael Wilson, Managing Director of UTV, said: "Our success is based on good, strong, well funded regional output. We agree that good local output can only survive with a strong backbone of networked content which will attract both viewers and advertisers to the service.
"The challenge for all interested in delivering a local service will be to make a new channel and opt-outs commercially viable very quickly. UTV's experience at making cost effective, high quality local news and programming makes us ideally placed to take advantage of the potential new licences being offered by the Secretary of State today.
"As the channel 3 licensee for Northern Ireland, UTV plays a central part in community life in our region and produces one of the most watched local news programmes in the UK, regularly attracting a share around 40% of the audience at 6pm. UTV also produces the only late night regional news and current affairs programme on any channel in the UK.
"This expertise in local content was one of the main reasons for UTV and its partners successful bid for the Independently Funded News Consortia (IFNC) project for Wales in February 2010."
(KMcA)
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