UK Government’s Response to the Consultation on the Renewal of Local TV Licences

The government has recently responded to the consultation on the renewal of local TV licences, outlining its vision for the future of local TV services in the UK.

The consultation document addresses various aspects of local TV, including financial sustainability, service delivery, and the potential benefits of partnerships with other media organisations.

UK Government's Response to the Consultation on the Renewal of Local TV Licences
UK Government’s Response to the Consultation on the Renewal of Local TV Licences

UK Government’s Response to the Consultation on the Renewal of Local TV Licences: The government’s response provides insights into the renewal process, the objectives for local TV, and the regulatory benefits that will be provided to support the sector.

Government Response to the Consultation on the Renewal of Local TV Licences – Background

In 2011, the government introduced a new framework for local TV across the UK, aiming to establish a new generation of local TV services and create a robust and economically viable local media sector.

The framework sought to address the gap in the broadcasting landscape and provide a new voice for local communities, while contributing to economic growth in the creative industries and fostering local journalism.

This initiative led to the creation of 34 local TV services that exist today.

Objectives for Local TV Renewal

Looking ahead to the next ten years, the government aims to work with the sector to ensure the objectives outlined for local TV in the 2011 framework are delivered and built upon.

The government is committed to providing regulatory benefits to local TV services, including continued access to digital terrestrial television (DTT) and prominence on DTT and other linear TV platforms.

Financial Sustainability and Partnerships

The government recognises the potential benefits of innovative approaches to service delivery, including partnerships with other media organisations, in enhancing the financial sustainability of the local TV sector.

However, it emphasises that any financial benefits from these partnerships should be reinvested back into the sector to improve the quantity or quality of local content, or to ensure service offerings keep pace with changes in TV consumption patterns, such as the development of video-on-demand and internet-delivered (IPTV) services.

Renewal Process

The licences for the local TV multiplex and all 34 local TV services are due to expire on 25 November 2025. The government must make arrangements to secure continuity of local TV beyond 2025.

While new provisions for local TV are not included in the draft Media Bill, the existing legislative framework can be used to implement the proposals set out in the consultation document, so no new primary legislation is required.

The government believes that the licence renewal process provides an opportunity to review the current objectives for local TV and consider a refreshed focus, potentially on the sustainability of local journalism, growing the creative economy, or levelling up across the UK.

Future Impact and Challenges

The government acknowledges the challenges the sector has faced over the current licence period, including the impact of consolidation, loss of distinctiveness at an individual service level, and the increasing migration of services online.

It remains committed to supporting the sector to address these challenges and make the most of the opportunities facing them, helping local TV play an important role in the wider broadcasting ecosystem over the next decade.

TV Licence Renewal Options

The UK government has proposed two options for the renewal process: an automatic renewal process and a competitive relicensing process.

The automatic renewal process would ensure a swift and immediate rollover into the next licence period for all individual local services, while the competitive relicensing process would open up the licences to new ownership, inviting external bids.

The government believes that an automatic renewal may not sufficiently address the existing challenges faced by some local TV services and may not maximise the potential benefits seen for local TV.

Therefore, it is considering both options to ensure the most effective framework for local TV operators going forward.

Opportunities and Risks

Respondents to the consultation highlighted the continued importance of local broadcasting and journalism to preserving the ‘local voice’ in communities and contributing to media plurality.

They also emphasised the importance of local TV establishing itself as a trusted source of local news and democracy.

Several respondents focused on the venture into digital spaces and put forward the opportunity for further development of online delivery of local services across live (IPTV) and on-demand platforms to widen access to local programming.

However, there were concerns about the uncertainty around the long-term future of local TV and the pace of transition to IPTV and on-demand viewing, as well as the sustainability of local TV services in the face of declines in linear advertising and viewership.

The government’s response to the consultation on the renewal of local TV licences reflects its commitment to ensuring the continuity and sustainability of local TV services in the UK.

By engaging with the sector and considering various options for the renewal process, the government aims to support local TV in delivering its statutory objectives as it continues its transition into the digital era.

The regulatory benefits provided by the government will continue to support local TV services, ensuring their access to DTT and prominence on regulated electronic programme guides for both their main DTT services and any simulcast satellite, cable, and IPTV services.

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