Jeremy Hunt
The culture secretary said today that a series of individual stations may be a more feasible way to run his planned local TV network, instead of a national network channel.

Jeremy Hunt's comments follow a four month consultation over the plans, which invited responses and expressions of interest from providers. A summary of the consultation was published this morning.

Hunt (pictured) said in a statement today: “While I have not yet taken a final decision, it may be that a series of individual stations is the best way to deliver local TV."

A report published in December by Nicholas Shott, UK head of investment banking at Lazard, suggested that a national network channel supporting a number of local stations would be the best way to structure the new network.

But Hunt's comments today indicate that he is leaning toward a number of unaffiliated stations with individual local licenses.

A statement from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said that Hunt was considering whether a "bottom up" approach of individual licensed stations would be more feasible and faster to implement than the "top down" approach of a national network.

The statement added that a series of individual stations could potentially be "more financially secure without reliance on a dominant network centre, and could be implemented much faster through secondary legislation".

A spokesperson for the DCMS said today that there was no indication yet of the number of stations being considered.

According to a summary of the consultation, the responses and expressions of interest produced "a wide range of opinions about how local TV could be delivered", with the "vast majority" of the responses "supportive of the principle of Local TV".

The summary also reports that there was a "general consensus" that news programmes should form the mainstay of local TV services, although there were concerns raised that news programming would be too expensive to produce and suggestions that BBC regional broadcasts could be recycled instead.

Today's report also acknowledges responses that pointed out the large number of hyperlocal sites and local internet communities that already offer "a variety of highly localised, video and text services of a relevance and granularity that is not currently possible or likely to be viable on television".

The DCMS received 140 responses in total, made up of: 21 expressions of interest in operating some form of network channel (ranging from centralised models to not-for-profit models to locally owned models); 43 expressions of interest in providing a range of local services; five expressions of interest in providing nations-based (i.e. Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland specific) services; and 71 responses offering comments on the local TV policy proposition more generally.

Many of the responses and suggestions in the report are based on the idea that the a single national network would be implemented on a 6th channel, and so may not be as relevant to a possible plan for individual stations.

Several existing television companies applied for a license to run the planned national network channel, including Channel 4 and Element TV.

Hunt added in his statement that his local TV plans were key to the government's "localism" agenda.

“The Government is committed to localism – putting power in the hands of citizens and neighbourhoods. Local TV will be a key part of that, giving people the local news and content they want and helping local democracy to flourish."

Final proposals for the project will be set out by Hunt by the end of July.

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