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Local TV rollout completes

After just over three and half years, the UK's network of local TV stations is now complete.

This week, new local stations for Guildford and Scarborough launched, becoming the last of 34 licensed services to launch since November 2013. That's Surrey has launched on Freeview channel 7 for viewers receiving their terrestrial TV service from the Guildford transmitter, while That's North Yorkshire, the last of the channels to launch, provides viewers in the Scarborough area with local news on Freeview 7 via the Oliver's Mount transmitter.

In a process that started with the launch of Estuary TV in North Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire on Freeview on the 26th November 2014, most main towns and cities now have access to a local TV channel on either Freeview channel 7 or 8. Some local TV channels are also distributed on cable and satellite.

The local TV project, originally championed by former Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, has seen varying levels of success across the UK. Whereas stations such as Notts TV and Mustard TV (Norwich) have been able to run a successful service in line with their original licence requirements, stations including London Live and That's Manchester have been forced to ask Ofcom to allow drastic cuts to originally promised local hours, with viewing figures and ad revenue proving insufficient to sustain long hours of local news and current affairs.

The Made TV Network, which runs local services in cities including Cardiff and Leeds, bailed out Liverpool, Mold (NE Wales) and Birmingham's fledgling services and has since adopted a model of syndicating programmes from reality channel TruTV alongside local programming, enabling it to boost local news provision between 6 and 8pm.

In Scotland, where STV won all the available licences, the model of local TV has been effectively abandoned, with the previous city TV channels for Glasgow and Edinburgh now part of a single STV2 service serving multiple cities, now with less regionality than STV's main channel 3 service, which unlike STV2 has numerous regional opt-outs serving the East and West of the Central Belt, as well as Dundee and Aberdeen.

That's TV has emerged as the holder of the most local TV licences, although it has been told off by Ofcom for poor technical standards at its Solent and Oxford stations. In the past year, the company has taken over the running of Cambridge's local channel, and took over York and Scarborough's services ahead of launch. Many That's TV stations, along with Bay TV Swansea, Kent's KMTV, Brighton's Latest TV and Belfast's NVTV now simulcast vintage film channel Talking Pictures for periods of time during the day, helping provide the stations with additional income.

Some local channels fell by the wayside at licensing stage: no-one was interested in offering a service for Plymouth, an application to run a local service Bangor (Wales) and Inverness were deemed unsuitable, and a proposed local service for Bedfordshire never materialised.

Local TV stations had to launch by today in order to be able to tap into a funding arrangement with the BBC, whereby the BBC would pay for news footage from local TV operators. Under the new licence fee settlement this arrangement will now phase out after three years on air.

With all local channels now on air, the next challenge is to remain financially viable after BBC funding is removed, and to overcome coverage issues, when most of the stations have to move to new Freeview frequencies later this decade.

34 licenced services:
Phase 1 - 19 licences
  • Belfast: NvTv
  • Birmingham: Made in Birmingham
  • Brighton & Hove: Latest TV
  • Bristol: Made in Bristol
  • Cardiff: Made in Cardiff
  • Edinburgh: STV2 (was STV Edinburgh)
  • Glasgow: STV2 (was STV Glasgow)
  • Grimsby: Estuary TV
  • Leeds: Made in Leeds
  • Liverpool: Made in Liverpool
  • London: London Live
  • Manchester: That’s Manchester
  • Newcastle: Made in Tyne and Wear
  • Norwich: Mustard TV
  • Nottingham: Notts TV
  • Oxford: That’s Oxford
  • Preston: That’s TV
  • Sheffield: Sheffield Live! TV
  • Southampton: That’s Solent

Phase 2 - 15 licences
  • Aberdeen: STV2 (was licensed as "Around Aberdeen")
  • Ayr: STV2 (was licensed as "Ayrshire Today")
  • Basingstoke: That’s Basingstoke
  • Cambridge: That’s Cambridge
  • Carlisle: That’s Cumbria (was That's Carlisle)
  • Dundee: STV2 (was licensed as "View from the Bridges")
  • Guildford: That’s Surrey
  • Maidstone: KMTV
  • Middlesbrough: Made In Teesside
  • Mold: Made in North Wales
  • Reading: That’s Thames Valley (Reading)
  • Salisbury: That’s Salisbury
  • Scarborough: That's North Yorkshire (was Yorkshire Coast TV)
  • Swansea: Bay TV Swansea
  • York: That's York


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