ITV and affiliates could get a 10 year licence extension

Media reports today suggest that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), headed by new culture secretary Maria Miller, could be close to allowing ITV, STV and UTV to have a 10 year licence extension, with no major regulatory changes to the stations that make up the network on Channel 3. Also, it appears that an automatic extension of the Channel 5 licence is possible.

Earlier this year, Ofcom undertook a consultation on the future of the Channel 3 and 5 licences, whereby ITV plc put forward a suggestion to reduce the duration of regional news bulletins, but to increase the number of ITV regional news sub-regions back to pre-2009 levels. Pre 2002, each region had its own locally branded station on the network.

As indicated in both The Guardian and Broadcast, Ofcom outlined three options on how to proceed, which have now been studied by the DCMS. Alongside the option of readvertising the licences, reminiscent of the 1991 franchise round which saw major changes to the ITV network 20 years ago,  the option to extend the licences appears to have gained the most favour. Maria Miller will make and then announce her final decision later this year.

All affected broadcasters are reportedly happy with keeping their current public service broadcaster (PSB) requirements. Their status as PSB stations guarantees them their current slots on channels 3 and 5 respectively on the EPG of all major digital TV platforms, plus it guarantees them slots on the digital multiplex D3&4, giving around 98% terrestrial coverage, ahead of the around 90% terrestrial coverage offered by commercial multiplex operators.
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