Government to progress with plans to renew local TV licences
Government confirms broadcasting licences for 34 local TV stations can be extended for the next decade
- Stations can broadcast beyond 2025 subject to Ofcom approving plans to serve local audiences
- From London Live to Notts TV, local programming continues to be a source of regional news and provides training for journalists
The UK’s 34 local TV stations can stay on air beyond 2025, subject to media regulator Ofcom’s approval of the stations’ long-term plans, the government has decided following a public consultation.
Launched in 2013, local TV services are required to show a certain number of hours of local programming daily, serving different regions across the country. Many of the services also support local journalism through training programmes provided in production, news reporting and technical roles, which enable students to gain hands-on experience.
The licences for the 34 local TV services, often found on channel 7 and 8 on Freeview, are due to expire in November 2025. In the broadcasting white paper, which set out the government’s vision for the sector, it committed to consult on renewing or relicensing the individual stations.
The consultation found that industry participants and members of the public support the government’s plan to renew the individual local TV licences until 2034, on the condition that stations show Ofcom that they can maintain current levels of service and continue meeting the needs of local audiences for the decade ahead.
Under the new approach, Ofcom will review each station’s long-term plan for how it seeks to meet its daily programming quota and produce distinct shows that are relevant to their area. The local TV stations who receive Ofcom’s approval to renew their licence will continue to benefit from a prominent position in regulated electronic TV guides, including Freeview. Should current providers decide not to reapply or if Ofcom does not approve a renewal, a competitive relicensing process will be launched.
Plans to renew the local TV multiplex licence - which compresses and bundles a number of TV services into one frequency and transmits it digitally - will also be taken forward, ensuring local stations remain available to viewers free-to-air.
Media Minister Julia Lopez said:
"Despite changing technology and shifting viewing habits, people across the country tune into their local TV providers for trusted local news and distinct programming.
"We are helping the sector to continue delivering for audiences, supporting local journalism and fostering community pride, in the years to come."
The consultation considered whether the current objectives for local TV should be updated. These include the need to produce content that caters to the interests and needs of a local area, increasing the availability and production of local programming and delivering social and economic benefits to the community. It concludes that the objectives remain fit for purpose and provide local TV services with a clear framework to deliver distinct content that meets the needs of viewers.
The government will move forward with secondary legislation to implement these changes when parliamentary time allows, with the aim of the Ofcom-led renewal process being completed by the end of the year.