Manchester's Channel M closes

last updated: 16/04/2012 18:27

Guardian Media Group's local TV service Channel M, broadcasting from the Winter Hill transmitter to the Manchester area has ceased broadcasting on the day it was due to move from Freeview channel 200 to channel 75. 

The local multiplex carrying Channel M was reported to be carrying "stuffing" or null packets rather than any TV services from lunchtime today.

The closure of the service has been blamed on the Government's strategy toward local TV services, whereby a new type of licence will be awarded under a different framework to that which Channel M operated under. Three jobs have been lost following the closure.

Speaking to the website The Drum, the chief executive of GMG radio, Stuart Taylor commented "We've been in a holding pattern with Channel M for two years awaiting the outcome of the government's future plans for local TV. Sadly, we don't feel they provide us with the framework needed to grow Channel M into a profitable business that delivers the quality service viewers and advertisers expect from GMG. I want to thank Channel M controller John Furlong and his team for all they have done through this difficult period."

Old Local TV v New Local TV services
Channel M was to face an additional competitor in the Manchester local TV market, as Manchester was earmarked for one of the new local TV licences that will be awarded later this year. In addition, the new local service would have benefitted from funding from the licence fee. There were also concerns about how TV audiences could be measured.

The new local TV services will operate via a network of new local TV multiplexes that are set to be run by a specific local TV multiplex operator, rather than by the actual local TV stations themselves as was the case with Channel M.

Unlike Channel M and its digital multiplex, there will be funding from the licence fee under the oversight of the BBC Trust to get these new local TV services off the ground. The funding is guaranteed until the end of the current BBC charter in 2016. As an existing local TV station, working on an old licencing framework that dated back to analogue times, Channel M could not gain access to this funding.

The channel's main news content was pulled two years ago, and the channel continued to broadcast a skeleton service, supported by Salford University. The service was also pulled from Sky and was delayed in launching on Freeview following the closure of its analogue service after switchover in late 2009.

Spare capacity model to be carried forward to new local TV multiplexes
While this local TV channel failed, its multiplex provided an attractive proposition to broadcasters wanting to test Freeview out. GMG was able to secure additional funding through the lease of spare multiplex capacity, brokered by Canis Media in 2011. This led to several movie channels launching on the Channel M multiplex for a short period of time.

However, to facilitate extra channels, a technical mode change was needed to create more bandwidth. This led to a reduction in the multiplex's coverage area and a less robust signal. 

Lessons have been learned, and new local TV multiplexes will also utilise spare capacity to transmit additional channels alongside the main local service. But new local TV services will be delivered on multiplexes that are restricted to three channels and around 8-9 Mbps bandwidth in order to be able to transmit in either DVB-T QSPK mode or DVB-T2, in a similar manner to the proposed DVB-T2 multiplex to be launched in Northern Ireland later this year. These modes of transmission ensure that the signal's coverage and robustness is maximised, unlike Channel M.

New local TV services will also receive a better channel number on Freeview. It is proposed to launch local TV services on channel 8 in England and Northern Ireland, and channel 45 in Scotland and Wales, where channel 8 is already used as a result of existing Welsh and Gaelic language services on the platform.

  • Interestingly - originally Channel M's website points to a Debenhams corporate website. Salford uni operated a scaled down web presence for the past two years at

Elsewhere on the web:
The Drum's report on the closure of Channel M
The Manchester based media website reporting on the closure.
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  1. This is abit of a shock considering why have a plan to move from 200 to 75 if they was to pack it in.

    The local TV model is in tatters with the influence to clear 700Mhz instead of 600.


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