Ofcom has raised concerns over the “economic viability” of local TV channels proposing scrapping any further roll-outs across the UK.
More than 30 local stations have already been set up following plans laid out in 2011 by then culture secretary Jeremy Hunt, but several have faced financial difficulties and have struggled to find an audience.
Hunt’s vision was for major towns and Cities to have their own local TV stations following the success of a similar model in the US. In May 2012 companies were invited to apply for a licence to broadcast in cities such as Belfast, Cardiff, Glasgow and London with successful bidders given prominent channels on Freeview.
As part of their licence agreement, broadcasters were obliged to produce a quota of local news but since the first service launched in 2013, several have asked to reduce local news obligations with many stations called out over the quality of their output.
“Requiring new infrastructure to be built for additional local TV channels is not, in our current view, economically viable,” a spokeswoman for Ofcom said. “It could also undermine the many local services already on air.”
Several stations have since merged operations, broadcasting non-local programmes in a bid to save money. STV won the broadcast licence for serval Scottish cities, in March it announced a “strategic review” of operations at its loss-making local STV2 service.
In addition to those already on air, Ofcom had identified another 13 locations as local TV candidates but is now considering ending the roll out. “Most licences for locations with a household coverage of under 50,000 have not managed to attract viable applications,” it said.