This website has now closed. Thank you for your visits over the years. The following sites provide alternative sources of information: | | |

Norfolk local channel given Ofcom approval to cut local output

UPDATE | Weeks after criticism over its output, the local TV channel for the Norwich area has had its local programme commitments cut.

That's Norfolk replaced Mustard TV last year as the local TV channel on Freeview channel 7 in and around the Norwich area, inheriting Mustard's ambitious licence commitments.

But in recent weeks, its output has been criticised, with viewers alleging that it has only broadcast a fraction of the local content stipulated in its licence. During the recent 'Beast from the East' severe weather, the channel failed to broadcast any local news at all.

The channel has also been observed broadcasting filler news content from its sister channel in Cambridge, with news programming broadcast in a loop from 6pm, but falling short of the minutage of local 'first-run' content that was inherited from Mustard TV.

In March, Norwich South MP Clive Lewis told Ofcom "to get a grip" on That's Norfolk's licence commitments.

Now it's been confirmed that Ofcom's Broadcast Licensing Committee discussed and approved a change in commitments in a meeting on 7th March 2018, following a previously secret request by That's Norfolk to Ofcom in December 2017.

That's Norfolk was previously supposed to broadcast 11 hours and 15 minutes of first-run local programming a week. That's now been cut to 7 hours of first-run content a week (plus additional hours of repeats of local programmes). The newly approved stipulations now state the channel "will normally include news bulletins 5 days a week".

In making its decision, Ofcom said the "small reductions" proposed would not constitute a departure from the character of the service.

An Ofcom spokesperson told a516digital that they had "reached this decision after detailed and careful consideration."

"That's Norfolk's revised commitments will still ensure the channel broadcasts 12 hours of local programmes, including news and current affairs each week."

"If viewer complaints suggest a persistent failure to deliver against these commitments, Ofcom can investigate and take any appropriate action."

That's TV holds 14 local TV licences across the UK, serving places including Cambridge, Oxford, Southampton and York. The channels are largely run in secret, with little information about programming and schedules. There is little, if any publicity for the channels and requests for more information from journalists has repeatedly fallen on deaf ears. In Norwich, That's TV took over from Mustard TV in September 2017. Mustard TV was the loss-making local channel operated by Archant, the owner of the local Eastern Daily Press newspaper. The sale coincided with the expiry of licence fee funding for the channel following its third anniversary on air.

The channels have repeatedly fallen foul of Ofcom standards. Last month, a516digital's editor Mike Manning told BBC Radio Norfolk's Paul Moseley that various That's TV channels had suffered from various technical problems, including services crashing off-air or freezing. (Listen here from 1:49:46; available until 19th April 2018). The presenter of one of That's Norfolk's news programmes even underwent a complete outfit change mid-programme, indicating different parts of the programme had been sewn together prior to broadcast.

  • This article was updated on 10/04/2018 to contain a comment from Ofcom. We've also updated the article to specify the new programme commitments quoted here refer to 'first-run' programmes, i.e. additional hours of local programming may come from second-run or repeats.