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Ofcom approves Swansea local TV changes

Swansea's local TV channel has had its programme commitments reduced by Ofcom in the latest in a string of adjustments to local TV licence terms.

That's Swansea Bay has been told it doesn't need to increase its local TV programme commitments beyond what it had promised to do during the first year of operations. At the same time, a number of prescriptive commitments covering specific genres of programmes that the channel's licence contained have been simplified.

The channel, which originally launched as Bay TV Swansea, was due to increase the amount of time spent broadcasting local content during it first few years of operation, according to the channel's original licence details.

It was revealed last year at a Welsh Assembly Committee on News Journalism that the channel was struggling with its licence commitments and funding. At the time, it was confirmed that the channel had asked Ofcom to consider a variation to its licence commitments. In December 2017, it was confirmed that the channel would be merging into the That's TV network, which operates numerous local channels in England.

On 28 March 2018, Ofcom's Director, Content Standards, Licensing and Enforcement and Principal, Broadcast Licensing (the "Decision-makers") considered the variation request. The view of the Decision-makers was that, taken as a whole, the reductions proposed to the amount of overall local programming and of local news and current affairs which That’s TV Swansea Bay will be required to provide would not constitute a departure from the character of service.

It was considered that because the emphasis of the service has always been on providing local news and current affairs, a reduction in the overall amount of first-run local programming would have less impact on the character of the service than a reduction in the amount of first-run news and current affairs programming broadcast per week.

In this context, the Decision-makers were satisfied that a reduction of just one hour per week of local news and current affairs output (from 17 hours and 15 minutes to 16 hours and 15 minutes hours) would have minimal impact on the service.

Last week, it was confirmed that the licence commitments for local channel That's Norfolk would also be changed.

Since the launch of local TV on Freeview over the course of the last five years, almost all channels have requested a variation to their licence commitments. Only a small number, including Sheffield Live TV and Latest TV Brighton have so far not requested a dilution of their originally promised commitments. Various Local TV operators have blamed lower than expected viewing figures and funding issues for the changes.