Ofcom approves changes to five local TV services
The requests from Birmingham's Big Centre TV, London Live, That's Manchester, That's Oxford and That's Solent will reduce the amount of 'first run' programmes on the channels.
On Big Centre TV, the number of hours per week dedicated to news and current affairs programming will be pegged at 27 hours, the quota the channel had to meet during its first year on air, rather than increase to 35, then 38 hours a week overthe next two years as had been originally set out in the channel's licence commitments. The number of repeats will increase.
Approving the change, Ofcom's Broadcast Licensing Committee said that "whilst there would be a reduction in the volume of firstrun local programming, including first-run local news and current affairs programming, the total volume of local programming, including local news programming, would remain high. They also noted that, if the requested variation were allowed, the volume of first-run local programming including local news and current affairs programming would not go below that required under the Year 1 programming commitments."
The capital's local channel London Live has been allowed to reduce the amount of local programming from 8 to 5.5 hours a day. It has however committed to broadcasting 2.5 hours a day of local programmes originally broadcast on other channels on a 'new to London Live' basis. Peak time local programming will be reduced to 1 hour a day.
Ofcom said: "After careful deliberation, the Decision-makers considered that on balance the character of the service overall would still be maintained following the requested variation. In particular, that the programming commitment to provide local news and current affairs programming, which they considered to be particularly important, would remain unaltered whilst London Live would continue to provide a high volume of locally-relevant content on a daily basis."
Since its launch, London Live has already dramatically reduced the number of local programmes it originally set out to show following poor ratings for the channel.
The number of local programmes on That's Manchester will reduce from 66.5 hours a week to 52.5 hours a week. There are no changes to the number of hours of news programming planned. The approved request was the channel's second request to reduce local programme commitments since its launch last year.
In a move that Ofcom says will provide more flexibility for That's Oxford, numerous specific commitments were relaxed. The channel has been allowed to reduce the amount of local programming in peak-time from 18 hours a week to 14 hours a week, but the overall amount of first-run programming specified in the licence remains the same.
The local channel covering parts of Southampton and Portsmouth, That's Solent has been allowed to cut the amount of first-run programmes from 51 to 35 hours a week, but the number of hours devoted to news will remain the same.
Speaking of the Broadcast Licensing Committee's decision, Ofcom said: "They considered that the proposed variation to the volume of first-run and repeated local programming overall, and in peak time specifically, was proportionate given the continued commitment to a high number of local programming hours and the inclusion of a new commitment to provide a specific amount of repeated local programming. "