BBC proposing to bid for local multiplex licence

The BBC is proposing to bid for the licence to operate the multiplexes that will carry the forthcoming new local TV stations across the UK.

As part of Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt's plans for local TV in the UK, each area chosen for local TV would be served by a different licensee, but the digital multiplex the channel operated on would be controlled by a third party. The digital multiplex would carry the relevant local TV service in each area on either Freeview channel 8 (or 45 in Scotland and Wales), plus up to two additional videostreams, which could become part of a pseudo-national network.

According to a report today in Broadcast, the BBC has appointed John Furlong, the former controller of Channel M to consult on the project, but the BBC has not yet formally made a bid.

The local digital multiplex operator, generally referred to as "MuxCo" in the plans for local TV (but not related to the DAB multiplex operator of the same name), would receive £25 million of licence fee money from the BBC to cover the infrastructure set-up costs. Earlier this year, the BBC Trust, who are overseeing the transfer of licence fee money to the project, dictated that no adult or gambling services would be permitted on any local multiplex, as it did not wish licence fee money to be spent on providing the infrastructure for such services.

The local TV multiplex would use so-called "interleaved spectrum", transmitting at low power across relatively small parts of the UK using locally unused UHF frequencies. High power services would not be possible, as the spectrum is only vacant across small pockets of the country, and would otherwise interfere with reception of existing national services in neighbouring areas. To counteract the low power, the multiplex would use a robust transmission parameter which would make the signal easier to receive despite the low power, but in doing so limiting its bandwidth to the equivalent of 3 standard definition videostreams, plus EPG data.

Today's reports are nothing new for broadcast consultancy and platform EPG brokering company Canis Media, who are already in the bidding process with "CoMux" - a co-operative to be owned by the successful local TV applicants. They already tweeted back on the 28th May that the BBC were plotting to bid for the local TV multiplex licence.

Competition for Arqiva?
Currently, Arqiva ultimately provide the infrastructure for the national digital TV multiplexes, even the ones it doesn't directly control. Arqiva owns the UK's transmitter network, having acquired the network as a result of a series of privatisations and mergers over the years. Any successful applicant for the local TV multiplex licence would still need to work together with Arqiva, as the local TV services would need to use existing Arqiva transmitter sites to transmit the service to their service area, so that viewers didn't need to have second aerials pointing at a different mast.
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