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Culture minister highlights UK local TV progress

Culture minister Matt Hancock has been meeting with leaders of local TV stations across the UK, highlighting the progress made by the stations.

Speaking at a reception at the House of Commons held earlier this week by the Local TV Network umbrella organisation, he told MPs, peers, and industry leaders  that local stations had made impressive strides since the first station (Estuary TV) was launched three years ago.

Twenty-two stations are now on air with a further dozen scheduled to launch in the first six months of this year, including stations for Aberdeen, Ayr and Dundee as part of the new STV2 network launching in March and the new station for Teesside: Made in Teesside.

Mr Hancock was speaking at a reception, staged by the House of Commons by the sector trade body, the Local TV Network.

At the event, Ofcom figures were cited stating more than 14,000 hours of original, first run content was produced by local TV channels in 2015. BARB data shows that 7.5 million viewers switch on to a local TV station each month.

Critics point to lengthy delays in launching local TV stations, with many of the stations due to go on air this year having enjoyed secret Ofcom extensions to the launch deadlines stipulated at the time of their licence award. They also note an increase in requests by some stations to reduce the amount of local content and the actual editorial and technical quality of programmes on some stations.

In 2016, Bay TV Liverpool went bust leading to a takeover by Made TV. Made TV also agreed to a merger with Big Centre TV paving the way for the launch of Made in Birmingham. Early indications show that viewers have approved of the new services offered by Made TV in these areas.

Meanwhile, That's TV has taken over Cambridge's local TV service and is now behind the yet-to-launch York local channel, meaning that local TV is now increasingly dominated in England and Wales by Made TV or That's TV operated stations, with STV controlling all services in Scotland.