Strong interest from local TV industry in setting up more local stations on Freeview

There have been 94 expressions of interest in launching local TV services in another 30 locations across the UK, according to Ofcom today.

The additional local TV services would form a second phase of local TV rollout in the UK, following on from the first phase of awards made during the autumn and winter.

Ofcom invited expressions of interest in further locations for local TV on 13 March 2013. Following the closure of the exercise to gauge interest on the 24 April 2013, the regulator has confirmed it is now considering licence advertisements for the following locations:

Aberdeen
Dundee
Mold
Ayr
Guildford
Plymouth
Bangor
Hereford
Reading
Barnstaple
Inverness
Salisbury
Basingstoke
Kidderminster
Scarborough
Bedford
Limavady
Stoke on Trent
Bromsgrove
Luton
Stratford upon Avon
Cambridge
Maidstone
Swansea
Carlisle
Malvern
Tonbridge
Derry/Londonderry
Middlesbrough
York

Additionally, Ofcom received 66 expressions of interest in 51 further locations where technical feasibility has not been determined. There is doubt as to whether suitable frequencies will be available in all locations.

Local TV licences have already been awarded to operators in Belfast, Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Grimsby, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Norwich, Nottingham, Oxford, Preston, Sheffield, Southampton and Tyneside. The first local TV services are expected to launch this autumn. On Freeview, these channels will broadcast on channel 8 (or channel 45 in Scotland and Wales) via a local TV multiplex operated by Comux.

Comment
Local TV will use "interleaved" frequencies - frequencies that are unused and clear for use in very localised areas inbetween other main transmitter sites. With plans to clear the 700 MHz frequency band currently assigned for TV towards the end of the decade, there is a distinct lack of suitable frequencies for local TV everywhere. This is especially the case in signal overlap areas where signals from more than one TV transmitter site are available due to local topography, thus reducing the likelihood of suitable clear frequencies being available to serve an entire town or city.

Therefore, there are doubts as to whether local TV via Freeview in any further areas on top of the locations listed above will be possible, despite Ofcom receiving expressions of interest in 51 additional locations where technical feasibility has not been determined.

Additional services may only be able to be catered for if a major replan of the frequencies used by Freeview channels takes place and a change to the Freeview HD standard DVB-T2 is considered. This would allow more services to be transmitted on single frequency networks. The downside is that this would have a significant impact on consumers who would have to upgrade their receivers and possibly change their TV aerial. Options for a possible replan were considered at last week's DTG Summit, where industry leaders and politicians discussed how digital terrestrial TV might develop in the future.
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