Gov't to focus on up to 12 major U.K. cities

The U.K. government has greenlit the launch of a TV channel dedicated to providing local news and content.

Speaking at the Oxford Media Convention on Wednesday, media minister Jeremy Hunt invited companies interested in running the new service to register their interest by March 1.

Hunt, whose obsession with local TV pre-dates his appointment at the Dept. for Culture, Media and Sport last May, said the initial rollout would focus on up to 12 cities.

Licenses for local services, as opposed to larger regional services, which are already provided by the BBC and to a lesser degree ITV, would be granted by the end of 2012.

Hunt said, “To make this vision a reality, I am inviting existing and new-media providers to come forward with suggestions as to how this network channel — or local TV ‘spine’ — could work.

“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.”

“We will not be prescriptive. We will wait for the necessary technical assessment to be completed, and we will listen to the commercially viable proposals that come forward.

“Our goal is to be able to award the relevant licenses by the end of 2012, and for local TV to be up and running soon after.”

Hunt is convinced U.S.-style local TV can take off in the U.K., but many media executives believe it is not financially viable in Blighty, where national media has a much tighter grip than Stateside.

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