Regional Television to ‘return’ to the UK

20 towns and cities, including Liverpool pictured right, have been picked from a list of 65 to pioneer a new local television network.

“I am confident these new stations will provide local communities with programming which is relevant to their daily lives, will support local democracy, boost the big society and enhance local communities,” said Mr Hunt.

The locations picked to trial out the new local broadcasters are Belfast, Birmingham, Brighton and Hove, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Grimsby, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich, Nottingham, Oxford, Plymouth, Preston, Southampton and Swansea.

Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt previously said that ITV had been poor at reflecting local areas within its previous structure. A sure excuse to cover years of Tory changes which allowed greed to take priority over programming which saw most of ITV change into a national broadcaster.

The new network appears to be wall-to-wall localised broadcasting; previous attempts in the UK to broadcast entirely local independent programming have failed. The new local television service in order to work would need the old ITV mix of decent regional content and networked big budget entertainment and drama productions. Ideally local slots inserted into ITV, managed by independent programme producers who care enough to provide interesting content would have been the best option. With no ITV meddling (thus no sabotage to damage ratings and pander the ‘local tv is over’ mantra they’ve bashed for a decade) regional slots could flourish.

There will now follow a series of consultation in the areas selected with regulator Ofcom undertaking the research and begin the proposed licensing process. Britain first introduced ‘Independent Television’ in 1955, which proved to be a hugely successful mix of national programming and regional variations for its first 30 years. The blame for ITV’s decline was placed at the increase in rival channels with the arrival of Sky.

However local ITV survived for many years after the introduction of satellite broadcasting. Changes to the broadcasting regulation, first introduced by the Conservatives, and later enhanced by Labour, gradually saw ITV become a national broadcaster in England and Wales, although local news remains on the ITV1 branded output at the moment.

“Had the regulator and the government maintained the required locality of ITV we wouldn’t be in the situation we are in now. UTV in Northern Ireland proves that local ITV still works. It has some of the highest rating local content in the UK. However money talks and excessive profit was placed above programming by ITV and the regulator.” Says Justin Mason, TV critic for ATV.