The Growth of 'Restricted Service Licence' TV in the UK - Trends and Prospects

Simon Blanchard

May 2001


Section Number

1. Introduction

1.1. - 1.10.

2. Context and Challenges 2.1. - 2.18.
3. TV RSLs: The Story So Far 3.1. - 3.29.
4. TV RSL Economics: Issues & Evidence 4.1. - 4.26.
5. Conclusions and Prospects 5.1. - 5.25.
6. Notes  
7. References  


TV RSLs – A Short Chronology
TV12 (Isle of Wight) - Station Profile
MATV (Leicester) - Station Profile
C9TV (Derry) - Station Profile
Channel 7 - Realising the Potential of Local Television (by John Trevitt)
Table 1: The Radio Audience - Percentage Shares in 1999
Table 2: Advertising Expenditure In The Smaller Media (at constant [1995] prices £m)
VFG plc Press Release, December 11 2000
DCMS: Priorities for Use of Broadcasting Spectrum 470-854 MHz
The AHRB Centre for British Film and Television Studies
The Community Media Association


A New TV Sector

1.1. This short report takes a look at the emerging sector of 'Restricted Service Licence (RSL)' broadcast television stations in the United Kingdom. Since 1997 - using new provisions in the 1996 Broadcasting Act - the Independent Television Commission (ITC) has begun to issue licences for this new sector of smaller-scale and more local TV stations. (A Short Chronology of this new sector is included as an Appendix below).

1.2. By late last year - when the ITC held a National Workshop on TV RSLs in Sheffield - 8 stations were already on air, 8 more had been licenced, and a further 20 were ready to receive approval - making a prospective total of some 36 stations on air by the Autumn of 2001 (1). Currently (as of mid May 2001) there are 9 stations broadcasting:


TV12 Isle of Wight
Lanarkshire TV Lanarkshire
Oxford Channel Oxford
MATV Channel 6 Leicester
Channel 9 Derry
Channel M Manchester
Channel 6 Edinburgh
City TV Taunton
Home TV Hertford & Ware


1.3. The first objective of this Report is therefore to provide a short briefing on the arrival of this new sector, and comment on its progress to date. To anchor this, the report includes 'snap-shot' profiles of 3 of the stations: TV12 (Isle of Wight), MATV (Leicester) and Channel 9 (Derry) (2).

1.4. This is a very new tier of TV: one seeking to attract new audiences and carve out a place for itself in a crowded and competitive TV market. The second objective is therefore to look at the economic and managerial challenges facing these stations, and examine their future prospects.

1.5. The third and final objective is to look at the TV RSL 'space' from a wider public policy standpoint: notably the complex agenda presented by the recent Communications White Paper (3) and the very fluid regulatory and legislative context which has followed it.

1.6. In this context, I will suggest that there is a double opportunity. The first is to enhance the stability and public service dimension of those existing and prospective TV RSLs which have chosen to operate on a fully commercial, private sector basis. As I shall argue below, the evidence suggests that

they are delivering significant additional choice to viewers, and hence deserve a more permanent place on the TV landscape.

1.7. The second opportunity is to promote extra diversity and audience choice in this new TV space by creating a second and complementary 'non-profit' segment within it. This would mean licencing a further nexus of 'community' TV stations: 'non-profits' operating on a 'social economy' basis, and backed up by a Community Media Fund.

1.8. Taken together, these proposals would greatly strengthen this new tier of TV, and bring fresh energies into the culture of 'Public Service' broadcasting at a critical time in its history.

Acknowledgements & Disclaimers

1.9. I am grateful to the many individuals and organisations who helped me with information, documents and discussion. Special thanks to: Erica Forsberg, Steve Harris, Paul Meade, Jim Pearce, Hitesh Popat, Vinod Popat, Gary Porter, Ian Smith, Paul Topping. Thanks also to Steve Buckley, Nicky Edmonds and Sylvia Harvey for comments on the various drafts. Thanks to Sheffield Hallam University and the European Social Fund for funding the study. Comments and feedback from readers are very welcome. I can be reached by email at: essbee@europe.com.

1.10. The views expressed in this Report are my own. The Report does not necessarily reflect the views of Sheffield Hallam University, the Arts & Humanities Research Board, the Community Media Association or the European Social Fund.


Competing Models of Broadcasting

2.1. When we look back at the history of broadcasting - or indeed of any 'new technology' - we find that it presents a host of challenges to those involved. In practice, broadcasting is a highly contested arena - one in which a wide range of actors (politicians, civil servants, existing media owners, manufacturers, new investors, civic groups, etc) all struggle to understand, shape and define the possibilities.

2.2. The conventions and 'common sense' of one era (about who can broadcast, by what means, from what places, with what costs and benefits) have proved to be far from fixed. Indeed, the history is one in which the prevailing wisdom is subject to repeated challenge.

2.3. Until the 1950s, the dominant framework for broadcasting policy in Whitehall was one which prioritised an emphatically 'official' and strongly 'nationalised' model of provision - embodied in the structure and outlooks of the BBC (4).

2.4. In practice, this metropolitan, London-centric 'imperial monopoly' model of broadcasting led by John Reith lasted only 3 decades. The arrival of commercial TV in 1955 brought new voices into the 'charmed circle'.

2.5. The Independent Television network brought with it a new, more regionalised, quasi-federal model of programming and transmission. At a 'deep structure' level, ITV's emergence undermined some core assumptions of the inherited BBC model. In particular, it showed that high quality and popular programmes could be made outside the BBC, and that the Corporation's organisational architecture was neither 'natural' nor 'inevitable'.

2.6. Paradoxically, over the longer term these arguments about new voices would prove as effective against ITV as they had been in its contest with the BBC's monopoly. The much delayed arrival of Channel 4 in 1982 was driven through by a new generation of programme-makers - ones who were keen to create a fourth channel which sat outside the horizons of the 'cosy duopoly' of the BBC and ITV.

2.7. C4's 'producer-publisher' model was one which again broke with prevailing assumptions about the production of TV. C4's outlook and structure was more pluralistic, more open to a diversity of voices. In particular, it challenged the assumption that 'good' TV could only come from an 'in house' cadre of full-time career programme-makers - a sort of BBC inspired 'civil service'. C4 showed beyond doubt that there were many ideas and perspectives 'outside the walls' of the existing TV fortress (5).

Incumbents and Challengers

2.8. In this way we can see how the structure of broadcasting is marked by repeated challenges to the 'old order' by new entrants: new players who bring with them new conceptions about how to organise production, and about what modes of operation can be 'viable' (6).

2.9. How then does the TV RSL sector fit into this history of incumbents and challengers ? This new sector can best be seen as posing challenges on 3 main fronts - geographical, technological and economic.

The geographical challenge

2.10. As we noted, broadcasting by tradition has been highly 'nationalised', and this is reflected in the programme schedules, transmitter patterns and resource allocations.

2.11. Over time, the level of absolute centralism has been eroded, but only within rather drastic limits. ITV brought a greater degree of regionalism into the TV landscape - to which the BBC responded -but there was no TV equivalent to the growth of local radio from the 1960s (7).

2.12. Whatever the merits of regional TV output, TV RSLs are based on the argument that there is a missing 'third level' of TV production - not national or regional, but emphatically local, providing programmes and building audiences which the existing incumbents have failed to address (8).

The technological challenge

2.13. At the heart of the classic BBC/ITV era of duopoly was a sense of TV production as the prerogative of a relatively closed elite. In part, this outlook was framed and sustained by the character of the technology. Much TV equipment was expensive, highly specialised and relatively immobile. Technologies which fell outside this paradigm -such as 16mm film or U-matic video - were kept at the margins, labelled 'specialist', 'amateur, 'not up to broadcast standard' etc., and not allowed to disrupt the prevailing institutional wisdom.

2.14. However, from the 1970s onwards the increasing availability of relatively low cost TV/video equipment has worked to erode this barrier to entry. By the late 1990s - after some 20 years of expansion in the volume of production and the number of outlets - the major manufacturers had been able to achieve dramatic reductions in price in tandem with significant gains in performance. Broadcast standard production values have now become available at much lower cost (9).

The economic challenge

2.17. Embedded in the 'national' model of TV production is a set of interlocking assumptions about the 'necessary' relationship between programme costs and quality, and between both these factors and the ability to attract an audience. Put simply, network TV has been built on a high cost = high quality = mass audience model. By implication, the obverse was held to be true, i.e. low cost = low quality = small or no audience. In this model local TV was simply not a credible option.

2.18. The TV RSLs sector is committed to re-writing these 'rules'. It is attempting to show that there is space for a third tier of TV:one that delivers a distinctive, localised schedule - a schedule which audiences will want to watch in sufficient numbers to make it both economically viable and culturally relevant.


3.1. The TV RSL story to date falls into 3 broad phases. The first phase can be termed 'pre-history', and covers the period from the early 1970s up until 1997 (see Chronology for further details).


3.2. This phase has its roots in the growth of community and independent media culture, early cable TV experiments, the emergence of the 'personal' computer and digital media, and the dramatic expansion of the non-profit, social and voluntary sector (10).

3.3. This diverse constituency has grown rapidly over the last 30 years, alongside a parallel expansion in the scale and scope of TV broadcasting. The arrival of Channel 4 in 1982 marked a key moment of conjunction between these 2 trends: providing a new broadcast platform on which these new social and media voices could be seen and heard.

3.4. The added legitimacy and visibility which came with this new TV presence helped underpin wider social changes, and contributed very noticeably to a renewal and re-invention of the entire structure, routines and outlook of broadcasting in the 1980s and 1990s (11).

3.5. That said, despite these gains the organisational structure of broadcasting remained resolutely centralist with limited regional variants, and overseen by a regulatory culture which found it difficult to think outside the inherited duopoly model of the BBC and its private sector counterparts.

3.6. As a result, both those who were interested in a more truly local TV model, and those who saw a role for an expanded 'non-profit sector' of media provision were forced to re-group and re-state their case.

3.7. In the late 80s and early 90s this produced a fresh wave of lobbying and interest on 2 fronts: community radio and the proposals for a 5th TV channel. On the radio front, the Community Radio Association (CRA) managed to secure Government support for a new category of 'Restricted Service' (28 day) radio licences in the 1990 Broadcasting Act. In the years that followed, the new Radio Authority was to licence several thousand Radio RSLs all over the UK (12).

3.8. The outcome as regards a proposed 5th Channel was to prove less encouraging. In the early stages of debate, various proposals came forward in support of a local or City TV model for Channel 5, but - once again - the weight of tradition worked to favour a national and metropolitan solution (13).

3.9. In the event, the failure to win the argument for a decentralised Channel 5 had paradoxical effects. The campaigns in support of a localised C5 helped to keep the arguments for local TV alive in the first half of the 1990s. By the time it was clear that the localised C5 case was running aground the Radio RSL regime had begun to prove its credentials. By the mid 1990s it was apparent that Radio RSLs were a viable and popular mechanism for delivering a new segment of local broadcasting.

3.10. The policy implication was clear. If Radio RSLs were working so effectively then there was a compelling case to allow an equivalent regime in television. After a further wave of lobbying and debate the 1996 Broadcasting Act incorporated a licensing regime for RSL TV - based directly on the provisions and phrasing used for Radio. For the first time in the history of UK broadcasting there was to be a new sector of local TV services (14).

First Wave & Changing Contexts

3.11. The second phase in the emergence of TV RSLs covers the 4 years from the Spring of 1997 until December 2000. During this time there were 2 processes at work. The most obvious is the arrival of a first wave of TV RSLs getting on air - 8 stations by the end of 2000.

3.12. These 4 years proved to be a learning process for all concerned - the new stations, the ITC, advertisers, etc. By this time the Community Radio Association had become the Community Media Association, and it played a central role in the formation (in May 1998) of a Local Independent TV Network (LITN) under its auspices. The CMA and LITN held regular workshops to track progress, and were instrumental in the ITC's decision (in September 1999) to extend the TV RSL licences from 2 to 4 years. By the time of the ITC Workshop in November 2000 it was clear that the TV RSL sector was finding its feet, and was on the way to becoming something more than an interesting but marginal ‘experiment’ (15).

3.13. The second process at work during this time derives from the reform agenda of the incoming Labour government. The Blair administration established a new Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and set in train a wide-ranging review of media and communications policy - culminating in the plans set out in the Communications White Paper of December 2000.

3.14. This context of policy review and renewal has brought added complexity to the TV RSL agenda. The regulatory framework is being re-drawn, the existing ITV sector is seeking to consolidate its structure and outputs, and there is a new climate of sympathy for enhancing the scale and scope for ‘non-profit’ media.

3.15. This new climate of support for ‘non profit’ media has come through most forcibly on 2 fronts: debates about access to new media technologies, and the discussions about ‘access’ (ie community) radio.

3.16. On the new media front, the Government has shown a readiness to make the connections between social cohesion, jobs and education, new media technologies (eg the Internet, and IT more generally), the creative industries and neighbourhood renewal. Emblematic of this was the publication in March 2000 of the Cabinet Office sponsored report ‘Closing The Digital Divide’ (16) which explored these connections in detail, and argued for a socially inclusive model of ‘digital Britain’.

3.17. In keeping with this new climate, in June 2000 the Radio Authority (RA) outlined its views on the future for radio (17). At the centre of their vision was a proposal that there should be a new tier of non-profit ‘Access’ radio stations, together with a dedicated Access Radio Fund to support them.

3.18. The RA’s plans represent a historic advance for the community media agenda. Whilst there is much detail to be resolved, the plans have been incorporated in the Communications White Paper, welcomed by the House of Commons Culture Committee, and reinforced in the follow up consultations (18).

3.19. Welcome in their own right, the RA’s proposals have inevitably also shed a new light on the TV RSLs. As the CMA and others have pointed out, if Government and regulators are seeking to consolidate the policy framework, then ‘joined up’ thinking would suggest that there should be a non-profit ‘Access’ arena on the TV side (19). We return to these issues below. For present purposes, what matters is that this non-profit agenda is now moving centre stage in the debates about the direction of broadcasting policy, with inevitable impact on the future framework for TV RSLs.

A New Phase, Further Changes

3.21. The third phase of the TV RSL story - the current one - started in December 2000. This month was notable on 2 counts: the publication of the Communications White Paper, and the public launch of the Local Broadcasting Group (LBG).

3.22. The White Paper has signalled the Government’s plans to reorganise the regulatory structure, and its sympathy towards both the local TV agenda and the non-profit sector. As a result, it is clear that the future framework for TV RSLs is likely to be significantly different to the one in which they first emerged.

3.23. The White Paper was launched on December 12th. The previous day saw the public announcement of the formation of the Local Broadcasting Group (LBG). Backed by 2 media groups, the LBG announced that - with ITC and DCMS approval - it had spent several million pounds to acquire a large portfolio of TV RSL 'franchises' (36 at launch, over 40 by February 2001) and was now firmly in place as the largest investor/developer in this arena (20).

3.24. LBG's arrival in December 2000 was an important milestone. Like the ITC’s Workshop the previous month, it was a clear signal that the TV RSL ‘space’ was not going to remain as an experimental side-show. The first wave of TV RSLs had been driven forward as predominantly small scale start-up businesses (only the Manchester station - backed by The Guardian/MEN Group - fell outside this profile).

3.25. LBG's arrival showed that the sector was now attracting the interest and resources of more mainstream ‘deep pockets’ investors. As a symbol of business belief in the mid term prospects for the RSL space, the new group was a welcome vote of confidence.

3.26. That said, LBG’s arrival has also brought obvious risks. The core objective for TV RSLs - like their radio counterparts - has been to introduce added diversity and pluralism into the broadcasting arena. Consolidating a large portfolio of TV RSL licences under one roof inevitably raised doubts about the application of a standardised format of ‘local TV’ that would not be in keeping with the original intentions for the TV RSL framework.

3.27. LBG themselves are emphatic that this is not the path they are planning to go down (21), but - given the wider trends in TV - (intensified competition, reduced schedule diversity, more ‘copy cat’ programming and format rivalry, etc) the concern remains understandable (22).

3.28. As we noted above, these recent developments have served to highlight the way in which the TV RSL ‘space’ remains ‘under review’ - an arena in which a range of rather different visions for ‘local TV’ are working to define the possibilities.

3.29. As part of this context, we can now turn to a consideration of the economics of the sector to date, and what the experience of existing TV RSLs can tell us about future possibilities.


4.1. In trying to reach an assessment of the experience of TV RSLs to date we need to arrive at meaningful and relevant criteria. In brief, this means being clear about what the first wave of stations have been trying to do, and the criteria against which they are working. To put this another way, we need to try and understand their ‘business model’. How do they hope to be viable, and what does ‘viable’ mean ? A range of investors have chosen to spend significant sums to build and operate these new TV stations. How is this investment to be recouped ?

4.2. As we have seen, LBG's multi-million pound investment in the sector indicates a high level of confidence in the prospects for these licences. The company's public statements have been marked by a tone of bullish optimism and references to their plans to raise ''..up to ₤50m..'' to fund the roll-out of their existing licences and the purchase of additional ones.

4.3. Even so - as the 'dot com bubble' has shown in forensic detail - speculative investment in new media ventures is invariably accompanied by up-beat assessments of viability. Such optimism is suggestive of an investment climate, but cannot realistically be taken at face value. We need to examine the grounds on which such a positive assessment might be made, and to look at the experience to date (23).

4.4. Considered in this light, it is not difficult to identify the broad outlines of the business model on which the first wave of TV RSLs have been operating, and which LBG will clearly also adopt.

4.5. Put simply, TV RSLs are 'free to air' TV licences using local chunks of analogue broadcast spectrum. Like their ITV counterparts, they aim to put together a TV programme schedule which attracts audiences on a scale which will be of interest to advertisers and sponsors.

4.6. In this regard, the key question for the existing TV RSLs is their viability as an advertising medium. TV RSLs are not subscription-based, nor are they 'pay per view'. Their business viability depends entirely on the extent to which, over time, they can balance programme expenditure with adequate advertising revenues.

4.7. How then might we arrive at a view about the prospects for these stations as an advertising vehicle ? In what follows, we look at 4 types of evidence. The first is what we can learn from the UK's other advertising supported local broadcasting sector - namely commercial local radio. Secondly we look at the broader trends in the so-called 'smaller media' segment of the advertising economy.

4.8. Thirdly, we look at the experience of 3 TV RSLs already on air - namely TV12 (Isle of Wight), MATV (Leicester) and Channel 9 (Derry) - and consider what lessons they may offer. Finally, we take account of the perspective of TMH - a company which has been working to sell the TV RSLs as a medium to advertisers.

The Growth of Commercial Local Radio

4.9. Started under the aegis of the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) in the mid 1970s, and now overseen by the Radio Authority (RA), the commercial local radio sector has grown dramatically over the last quarter century. According to the RA there are now 250 stations across the UK, covering 98% of the UK population (24).

4.10. With almost 40% of the radio audience in 1999 (see Table 1) commercial radio generates substantial advertiser revenues. According to the Radio Advertising Bureau, total advertising expenditure on commercial local radio in the year to February 2001 amounted to £494m (25).

4.11. The rise of the commercial local radio sector is encouraging for TV RSLs on 3 counts. Firstly, it shows that it is possible to build a very significant media business sector out of localised broadcasting. Secondly, it shows that mainstream advertisers and agencies now accept that such broadcasting has a place as part of their marketing campaigns. Thirdly, it suggests that the distinctive visual appeal of TV broadcasting should give the TV RSL stations an opportunity to build a new advertising market segment.

Advertising Trends in the 'Smaller Media' Segment

4.12. Local radio's growth has been part of a broader trend showing rapid and above average growth in what the Advertising Association (AA) terms 'smaller media'. According to the AA, over the period from 1985-1999 total advertising spend grew by 73% in real terms. However (as Table 2 shows) spend on the smaller media segment (outdoor & transport, cinema and radio) grew by almost 180%. Spend on radio as a whole (including national stations such as Classic FM) more than trebled, the spend on cinema almost quadrupled, and the spend on outdoor and transport media more than doubled.

4.13. Again, these broader trends lend support to the prospects for advertising on TV RSLs. National network TV has an obvious appeal for major brands and sponsors, but not everyone needs or can afford the costs of this type of 'mass market' promotion. Hence the expansion of the 'smaller media' segment. The growth of these lower cost options is also clearly related to broader business trends since the 1970s - notably the growth of the small business sector, greater brand awareness, the liberalization of advertising by the professions, expansion of the services sector and so forth. All these trends have helped to accelerate the growth of commerce, and hence the demand for new channels for product and service promotion (26).

RSLs On Air: TV12, MATV, Channel 9

4.14. Short profiles of these 3 stations are included as Appendices below. Readers are also referred to each station’s website (listed in their profiles) which provides additional detail on their schedules, staffing and programmes.

4.15. All 3 stations have now been on air long enough to have moved beyond their launch phases into a more stable and regular pattern of operation - thus allowing a degree of meaningful comparison.

4.16. As might be expected, the 3 stations are not just very different in their geographic and social context - they also diverge notably in such matters as staffing levels, schedule ‘mix’ and volume of local production.

4.17. Whilst detailed data is limited, all 3 stations have clearly been able to build a substantial local audience and viewer profile, and - on the back of this - all three report both a growing volume of local advertiser business, and an emerging segment of ‘name brand’ national advertisers (especially of the ‘direct response' type).

4.18. In looking at the 3 stations it is clear that all of them have identified the decisive ‘anchor’ role played by the early evening news slot. This has long been a weak spot in the BBC/ITV schedules: regional ‘opt outs’ cannot provide a strongly local news agenda (27). As a result, all three stations have been able to offer a genuine viewer alternative, and have used this to build local profile and word of mouth (28).

4.19. So far, of the 3 stations Channel 9 is the only one which reports a volume of advertising income on a scale which takes it past the ‘breakeven’ point (a milestone it reports reaching in the Summer of last year). For the other 2 stations, published accounts indicate that they are still running at a deficit - as might be expected in early stage businesses in a new industry sector (29).

4.20. C9’s early move into recoupment is an encouraging signal that commercial viability can be achieved. Given the Belfast-centred traditions of the BBC and Ulster Television it is not surprising that the citizens of Derry have welcomed C9’s more local TV voice. It may also be of relevance that the C9 schedule ‘mix’ is by a large margin the most extensively localised of the 3 stations considered here.

The Sales Agency Perspective

4.21. TMH Media Services are a sales agency based in Colchester. They have been involved in the task of presenting the TV RSLs as a group advertising medium to media buyers and agencies. Though the stations are clearly well placed to market their airtime to local clients, TMH have assisted with representation at the national client and buyer level (30).

4.22. TMH are of course keen to see the stations develop a common audience research framework, and emphasise the added credibility and commercial weight this would bring the sector (31).

4.23. In the interim, TMH have helped the stations to draw in some national airtime sales in the ‘direct response’ category (ie Claims Direct, Direct Line, etc) - where the client can monitor audience response directly without relying on audience survey data. More generally, they expect the stations to accrue more business as they grow in numbers and hence in general media visibility.

Viability & Diversity

4.24. Taking all this evidence together, it suggests that this emergent commercial model for TV RSLs can be viable, and that it can deliver a significant degree of additional ‘public service’ to its audiences.

4.25. Moreover, the model can evidently sustain - at least so far - a diversity of station structure, operations and output. This variety is one of the sector's strengths: allowing stations to adjust their operational 'mix' in a way which is flexible and locally sensitive.

4.26. In other words, the TV RSL experience to date does not indicate that commercial realism must dictate a standardised 'path to viability' nor a set pattern of programming. As we noted earlier, the history of TV in the UK does not support the idea of a single 'correct' or uniquely viable model of programme provision - quite the contrary. It looks as though this rubric will hold as true for this third tier of TV as it has for its precursors.


5.1. As we have seen, the TV RSL ‘space’ remains under review, caught up in the policy cross-currents of the White Paper and the changes under way in related media sectors, notably radio. In this final section we look briefly at these ‘next stage’ issues, and make some suggestions for future policy.

5.2. As noted in the Introduction, there are opportunities here on 2 fronts. The first is to make revisions to the operating context for existing and prospective TV RSLs operating on a commercial basis - to give them further stability, and reinforce the ‘public interest’ dimension of their work.

5.3. The second opportunity is to promote further diversity and audience choice in this new tier of TV by establishing a second and complementary ‘non-profit’ segment within it, backed up by a Community Media Fund.

Enhancing The Existing Commercial TV RSL Framework

5.4. There are at least 3 dimensions along which it would be possible to strengthen the current framework - all of which go ‘with the grain’ of developments to date, take account of new realities, and will strengthen the best elements of what is already in place. We take them in turn.

Acknowledging The Public Service Dimension

5.5. The regulatory framework could be revised to take proper account of the way in which TV RSLs are already - to a notable degree - ‘public service broadcasting (PSB)’ operators. As the White Paper indicates, a place as part of the PSB ‘family’ brings with it a mixture of benefits and obligations. Nonetheless, the evidence we have considered suggests that the TV RSL sector is fully capable of meeting sensibly drawn PSB criteria.

Extending The Licence

5.6. The current TV RSL licences are 4 years. On the evidence to date, this will not be long enough to allow most stations to reach operating break even and recover sunk costs. There have already been calls to extend the length of the licence, and the case for doing so seems compelling. A more adequate licence period would also be part of the process of acknowledging that this sector cannot continue to be regarded as a ‘temporary’ sideshow.

A Stronger Voice In Both Analogue & Digital Planning

5.7. Government and industry are committed to moving TV onto a wholly digital basis over the next decade, subject to a number of public interest safeguards (32).

5.8. At present, in the analogue context, TV RSLs are at the very bottom of the spectrum planning hierarchy (33). In contrast, the ‘transition to digital’ has been seen to offer TV RSLs the prospect of a less marginal place in the broadcast landscape.

5.9. Recognising this, the Communications White Paper notes that:

''...the increased availability of spectrum after switchover may enhance the potential for further RSL services in the future. A post-switchover plan will therefore be developed to give RSL organisations a clearer indication of long-term prospects for local television services..'' (34).

5.10. In itself, this commitment is welcome, and provides a marker for future discussion. Nonetheless, current indications are that the timetable for ‘transition’ looks rather more uncertain - and potentially more protracted - than was previously envisaged (35).

5.11. In practice, however this ‘transition’ process unfolds, the accelerating scale and scope of this new sector is such that it clearly deserves a more considered ‘place at the table’ in the analogue present: one which matches its prospective contribution to the digital future.

Extending Diversity: A New ‘Non-Profit’ TV RSL Sector

5.12. As we suggested above, broadcasting history is marked by repeated challenges to the prevailing ‘conventional wisdom’. In this respect, the TV RSL space is no different to its predecessors: the arrival of a new cadre of commercially oriented local TV stations is bringing added choice, but the model which underpins it is not the only way to deliver local TV.

Greater Pluralism

5.13. There are several strands to the argument in favour of a more pluralist agenda for TV RSLs. The first is one which recognises the public interest case for the greatest practical degree of media diversity - an argument which the White Paper accepts, and which is given added impetus by current trends towards TV industry concentration.

Non-Profit Sector Capacities & Examples

5.14. The second strand of argument comes from a recognition of the explosive growth in the scale and scope of the ‘non-profit’ sector, especially its media segment. Across a wide range of media and in many varied settings the ‘social economy’ sector is already a substantial provider of media pluralism. Given these existing capacities and skills, there are grounds for optimism that the sector has the resources and energy to sustain a new arena of ‘non-profit’ TV RSLs.

5.15. Moreover, this confidence is not just hopeful speculation: there are working examples already in place of how ‘non-profit’ TV can draw new audiences and contribute to community renewal. To take just one example, Channel 7 - a cable channel broadcasting to about 70,000 viewers in Grimsby, Cleethorpes, Immingham and Scunthorpe - is doing pioneering work to harness local TV as an engine of learning, social cohesion and business development. A short profile of its operations by John Trevitt (the Channel’s Director) is included as an Appendix below .

The Access Radio Precedent

5.16. The third part of the case comes from the recent decisions by the Radio Authority to move forward (with the Government’s support) with the development of a ‘non-profit’ radio sector. As the ‘Access Radio’ pilot schemes get under way, the logic and arguments which have been accepted in the local radio broadcasting arena can fairly be said to apply with equal if not greater force in the local TV context.

The Case From ‘Convergence’

5.17. The fourth strand of argument in favour is the White Paper’s call for an approach to media regulation which takes a broader, more ‘joined up’ view of policy and planning. This ‘convergence and connectedness’ argument is at the heart of the White Paper, and underwrites its vision for an OFCOM with the remit and powers to survey the entire field.

5.18. Moreover, as part of the preparations for OFCOM’s arrival, the various existing agencies (OFTEL, the ITC, the Radio Authority, the Broadcasting Standards Commission, the Radiocommunications Agency) have drawn up a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ in which they undertake to ‘develop a common strategic vision’ and ‘develop policy issues together where there are common interests’ (36).

5.19. In this respect, the ‘non-profit media’ agenda is clearly a strong instance in which the scope for greater coordination and consistency seems very evident.

5.20. Debate on the White Paper has already noted the obvious risks that the structure for OFCOM will be ‘convergent’ in name only - reproducing existing agency mindsets and leaving the policy framework locked inside current departmental ‘silos’.

5.21. To this degree, the recent inter-agency Memorandum is a step in the right direction, but the non-profit media agenda will be a crucial test case of whether the ‘pathfinder’ process for OFCOM can deliver a truly reformed and convergent approach - possibly (as the CMA suggest) by creating a Community Media division within OFCOM.

A Community Media Fund

5.22. As a further instance of the need for a more inclusive agenda, we can point to the logic of the case for a Community Media Fund. As part of the new Access Radio project, the Radio Authority have outlined proposals for a Radio Fund to assist the development of these new stations.

5.23. Again, if the logic is worked through, and the case for ‘non-profit’ local TV is taken up, then the case for funding to support this further initiative will be equally strong (37).

5.24. In these circumstances, the case for bringing these distinct funding streams together under one roof will become very compelling: it would make no sense to keep proliferating separate funds for different strands of the ‘non profit’ media sector.

5.25. Lastly, as well as the arguments from logic & simplicity, there is a further and more decisive reason for a Community Media Fund. As this report has tried to indicate, the local TV story is one which shows very vividly how media & communities can revitalise each other. A Community Media Fund would anchor this work, and provide a flagship for the benefits of a ‘converged’ framework.


1. These figures are from a presentation by Anthony Hewitt, ITC Deputy Director - Cable, at the ITC National Workshop on Local TV, Sheffield, 2 November 2000. At present (May 2001) the ITC’s estimate of 30+ stations on air by Autumn 2001 looks rather optimistic. Nonetheless, a total of 30-40 stations on air within the next 2 years seems achievable. For further details on the TV RSL licences, see the relevant sections of the ITC website, especially:



2. The case studies for TV12 and MATV are based on short research visits by the author to each station. For C9, the case study draws on two sources: firstly, a series of extended telephone interviews by the author with the Station Manager, secondly, a corroborative discussion with Steve Harris (MD for MyTV Ltd - holders of the TV RSL licence for Portsmouth/Southampton/ Bournemouth) who visited C9 in early May. Again, usual disclaimers apply.

3. See DTI/DCMS (2000).

4. On the distinctive organisational ethos of the BBC, see Hood (1993).

5. On the ways in which C4 challenged the existing duopoly models, see Blanchard & Morley (1982), and Catterall (1999).

6. The ways in which successful industry players can be outflanked by new business models which re-write the prevailing 'rules' is a central theme in Christensen (1997). For a recent study of the UK TV industry which highlights competitive dynamics, see David Graham Associates (2000) and the comments in Graham (2000).

7. On this topic see Harvey and Robins (1993).

8. For a summary of the case for local TV by its most determined advocate, see Rushton (1997).

9. For a brief survey by one of the major manufacturers, see Panasonic (2000).

10. On these trends, see Blanchard & Harvey (1982), Langlois (1992), Salamon (1994), Kendall (2000). On the policy dimension to these new sectors, see Najam (1999).

11. For a commentary on C4’s influence and changes in the broadcaster-audience dynamic, see Jackson (2000).

12. On the Radio RSLs see the reports on the Radio Authority website (www.radioauthority.org.uk).

13. On C5, see Blanchard (1990), Cornford & Robins (1991), and the ITC’s Annual Reports. C5 launched in Spring 1997 as a London-based service.

14. See Rushton (1997) for details.

15. Paul Gardiner, ITC Head of Engineering, estimated at the Sheffield Workshop (November 2000) that careful spectrum management might allow for a total of 70-80 TV RSLs across the UK. On the view of TV RSLs as an experiment, see the ITC RSL Guidelines, ITC (1999), Paragraph 2, which refers to '..the experimental nature of RSLs..'.

16. See DTI (2000).

17. See Radio Authority (2000) for details, and the subsequent speech by the Authority’s Chairman Richard Hooper to the CMA Annual Conference in October, Hooper (2000).

18. For the welcome from MPs, see House of Commons (2001). For further discussions about the plans for ‘Access’ Radio, see Radio Authority (2001a) and Radio Authority (2001b).

19. For the CMA’s case that there should be a more broadly drawn ‘Community Media’ (rather than just Community Radio) approach to policy, see their recent Manifesto: CMA (2001).

20. See VFG (2000a) for the Press Release announcing the public debut of the LBG. LBG is backed by VFG plc - a media facilities company - and Yattendon Investment Trust plc - a company active in newspaper publishing, property development and allied fields. On VFG, see VFG (2000).

21. See LBG’s Response to the White Paper: Local Broadcasting Group (2001), where they reiterate that "..These licences will be operated separately with the emphasis on broadcast programming serving each individual area. There is no intention to create a network with a common schedule.." ibid, p.2.

22. The classic study of these dynamics in the hyper-competitive US TV market is Gitlin (1985), especially Chapter 5 ‘The Triumph of the Synthetic: Spinoffs, Copies, Recombinant Culture’ ibid, pp 63-85. These trends are now also widespread in the UK TV industry. On the rapid growth in the importance of formats, see David Graham Associates (2000). On declining schedule diversity, see Barnett and Seymour (1999), Stone (2000). On the arrival of the new pro-competitive policy regime, see Blanchard (1989), and Sheffield Hallam University (2001). The related tendency for ostensibly ‘local’ economic development to produce competitive imitation and ‘bandwagon’ effects is explored in Griffiths (1998).

23. On the dynamics and atmosphere of speculative booms, see Galbraith (1993). On the 'bubble' character of the 'dotcom' wave, see, Estrada (2001). Estrada notes in his conclusions: ''..Don't ask 'Do they have a business model ?' Ask 'Do they have a good business model ?' You can't sell a dollar for 95 cents in the long term..''

24. Data from the Radio Authority [www. radioauthority.rg.uk]

25. See the RAB website at: www.rab.co.uk

26. On the growth of commerce and the services sector, see Julius (1998). On the growth of the 'brands' economy, see the resources on the InterBrand website: www.interbrand.com.

27. For a review of the strains on the ‘regional’ agenda in ITV, see ITC (2000), which notes that "..Pressure to win ratings is immense, while regional diversity in network programmes is less of a consideration.." ibid, Paragraph 24, page 7. The report notes that the ITV network now embraces a patchwork of 27 distinct services (combining regions, sub-regions and opt-outs). Recent press coverage indicates that the ITV companies are seeking to drastically reduce the ‘regional’ programming element in their schedules - see Rushe (2001), who quotes one (un-named) ITV executive as saying "..There are huge discrepancies at present. Some areas get a lot of local programmes, some get very little. It is a matter of managing the whole thing to make it more uniform…". ‘Local’ in this context is something of a misnomer.

28. Christensen (1997) devotes an entire chapter - entitled 'Match the Size of the Organisation to the Size of the Market' - to these strategic opportunities. He notes how large incumbents can fail to capture emerging markets because they wait until these arenas 'get large enough to be interesting'. As he puts it, '..small markets don't solve the near term growth needs of large companies..', and therefore they often discount their potential. This leaves them open to smaller & more agile new entrants. See Christensen (1997) pp. 125-145.

29. See MATV & TV12 published accounts for details

30. See TMH (2000) for details. See also the data in Channel 9 (2001), Continental Research (1999).

31. See Pounds (1999) for a review of this issue.

32. See Smith (1999).

33. See DCMS (1997) - included as an Appendix below.

34. See DTI/DCMS (2000), Paragraphs 4.5.4 and 4.5.5. on page 40

35. On the technical problems, see Digital TV Group (2000) and the commentary on this in Elstein (2000). On the problems facing existing digital TV services, see McIntosh (2001), Snoddy (2001) and Teather (2001). The defining problem is that a substantial proportion (roughly 25%) of UK households have no interest in digital TV. A recent Consumers Association survey indicated that:''...Just over a quarter of consumers have gone digital, led by the choice of channels and their willingness to pay for additional services. Only a further quarter of consumers expect to adopt digital television in the next 5 years. The remaining half of the population has not even looked into going digital, and of these, roughly half say they will never switch..'' See Consumers Association (2001), page 3.

36. The Memorandum (dated 27 March 2001) is on the Radio Authority's website (www.radioauthority.org.uk).

37. The mixed ecology of the Welsh Fourth Channel and the distinctive remit of the Gaelic Broadcasting Fund are both relevant precedents for using public funds to enhance TV pluralism and viewer choice. The latter disbursed a total of ₤9,280,000 during January - December 2000. See ITC (2001) page 67 for details.


Advertising Association (2000) Advertising Statistics Yearbook 2000, Henley-on-Thames: NTC Publications.

Barnett, S. & Seymour, E. (1999) A Shrinking Iceberg Travelling South: Changing Trends in British Television, London: Campaign for Quality Television.

Blanchard, S. (1989) Screen Trading: An Audit of the Government's Plans for the Broadcasting Industry, Manchester: Centre for Local Economic Strategies.

Blanchard. S [ed.] (1990) The Challenge of Channel Five, London: BFI Publishing.

Blanchard, S. and Harvey, S. (1983) 'The Post War Independent Cinema: Structure & Organisation' in J. Curran & V. Porter [eds.] "British Cinema History", London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson.

Blanchard, S. and Morley, D. [eds](1982) What's This Channel Fo(u)r?, London: Comedia Publishing.

Catterall, P. [ed.] (1999) The Making of Channel 4, London: Frank Cass.

Channel 9 (2001) Information & Advertising Rates, Londonderry: C9 Studios.

Community Media Association (2001) Commedia Manifesto: Access to the media for people and communities, Sheffield: CMA. (Online at:www.commedia.org.uk/manifesto).

Consumers Association (2001) Turn On, Tune In, Switched Off - Consumer Attitudes to Digital TV, London: Consumers Association.

Continental Research (1999) The Oxford Channel Tracking Waves 1-3, unpublished survey.

Cornford, J. & Robins, K. (1991) What's This Channel 5 for ?, Oxford: ESRC/PICT Policy Research Paper No. 13, October.

Christensen, C. M. (1997) The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms To Fail, Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

David Graham Associates (2000) Out of the Box - The Programme Supply Market In The Digital Age: A Report for the DCMS, Taunton: David Graham Associates, December. [online at: www.culture.gov.uk].

Digital TV Group (2000) A Study on the Technical Impediments to Analogue Switchover, Liss: Digital TV Group.

DCMS (1997) Priorities For Use Of Broadcasting Spectrum 470-854 MHz, London: DCMS.

DTI (2000) Closing The Digital Divide: Information & Communication Technologies In Deprived Areas - A Report By Policy Action Team 15, London: DTI. (Online at: www.pat15.org.uk).

DTI/DCMS (2000) A New Future for Communications, Cm 5010, London: The Stationery Office

Estrada, J. (2001) Another tulip bulb, another dotcom, Connectis, Issue 10, April, [online at: www.ft.com/connectis].

Elstein, D. (2000) 'Sorry, this free lunch is cancelled' New Statesman, 11 September: 16.

Galbraith, J. K. (1993) A Short History Of Financial Euphoria, New York: Viking Penguin.

Gitlin, T. (1985) Inside Prime Time, New York: Pantheon Books.

Graham, D. (2000) 'A Declaration of Independence', Economic Affairs, December: 7-12.

Griffiths, R. (1998) 'Making Sameness: Place Marketing and the New Urban Entrepreneurialism', in Oatley, N. [ed.] Cities, Economic Competition and Urban Policy, London: Paul Chapman Publishing.

Harvey, S. & Robins, K. [eds.] (1993), The Regions, The Nations and the BBC, London: BFI Publishing.

Hood, C. (1993) 'The BBC: An Island of Progressivism in a Sea of New Public Management' in Shaw, C. (ed.) Rethinking Governance and Accountability, London: BFI Publishing.

Hooper, R. (2000) Speech to the CMA 17th Annual Festival in Birmingham, October 7, London: Radio Authority.

House of Commons Culture,Media and Sport Committee (2001) Second Report - The Communications White Paper, 161 - I & II, 2 Vols. London: The Stationery Office, March 7.

ITC (1999) Restricted Service Licences - Notes for the Guidance of Licence Applicants, Issue 2 - February, London: ITC.

---- (2000) ITC Public Consultation on Regionalism In ITV, June 7, London:ITC.

---- (2001) Annual Report & Accounts 2000, London: ITC.

Jackson, M. (2000) Royal Television Society Fleming Lecture, May 10. London: Channel 4. [online at: www.channel4.com]

Julius, D. (1998) Inflation and growth in a service economy, Bank of England Quarterly Bulletin, November.

Kendall, J. (2000) The mainstreaming of the third sector into public policy in England in the late 1990s: Whys and wherefores, London: LSE Centre for Civil Society Working Paper 2, January. [online at:www.lse.ac.uk/depts/css]

Langlois, R. (1992) "External Economies and Economic Progress: The Case of the Microcomputer Industry" Business History Review, 66: 1-50.

Local Broadcasting Group (2001) Submission on the Communications White Paper, London: LBG, February.

McIntosh, B. (2001) Digital 'land grab' gives way to fight for survival, The Independent, April 12.

Midland Broadcasting Corporation Ltd. (1999) Abbreviated Accounts For The Year Ended 31 May 1999, Cardiff: Companies House.

---- (2000) ) Abbreviated Accounts For The Year Ended 31 May 2000, Cardiff: Companies House

Najam, A. (1999) 'Citizen Organisations as Policy Entrepreneurs' in Lewis, D. [ed.] "International Perspectives on Voluntary Action - Reshaping the Third Sector", London: Earthscan Publications.

Panasonic (2000) 'Extra Terrestrial' Vision - The Voice of Panasonic Broadcast Europe, Autumn: 22-23.

Pounds, J. (1999) Proposal To Create A Joint Industry Research System For The Local Television Industry, Facets Communication & Marketing Ltd., unpublished report, December 3rd. [Online at: www.litn.org]

Radio Authority (2000) Radio Regulation for the 21st Century, London: Radio Authority.

----- (2001a) Access Radio Seminar, 12 February, Royal Society of Arts - Seminar Report, London: Radio Authority.

----- (2001b) Radio Authority’s Recommendations to Government Regarding Access Radio, March. London: Radio Authority.

Rushe, D. (2001) ITV companies in bid to slash local content, Sunday Times, May 6.

Rushton, D. (1997) Creating Local Television, Luton: John Libbey.

Salamon, L.M. (1994) 'The Rise of the Non-Profit Sector', Foreign Affairs, July/August.

Sheffield Hallam University (2001) Response To The White Paper On Communications, Sheffield, February. [online at: www.communicationswhitepaper.gov.uk].

Smith, C.(1999) Speech on Digital TV to the Royal Television Society, Cambridge, September 17. London: DCMS Press Release

No 245/999.

Snoddy, R. (2001) 'Digital picture is no clearer' The Times, April 20.

Stone, J. (2000) Losing Perspective: Global Affairs on British Television: 1989-1999, London: Third World & Environment Broadcasting Project.

Teather, D. (2001) 'Dismal digital TV take-up upsets government plans' The Guardian, March 12.

TMH TV Sales (2000) LTV - Building A Bigger Picture For The UK, Colchester: TMH.

TV12 (2000) Directors Report & Accounts, Year Ended 31.12.99, Southampton: TV12.

VFG plc (2000) Annual Report and Accounts 1999, Peterborough: VFG plc.

---- (2000a) Press release: VFG plc creates new national group of local television stations, London: December 11.


TV RSLs – A Short Chronology

TV12 (Isle of Wight) - Station Profile

MATV (Leicester) - Station Profile

C9TV (Derry) - Station Profile

Channel 7 - Realising the Potential of Local Television (by John Trevitt)

Table 1: The Radio Audience - Percentage Shares in 1999

Table 2: Advertising Expenditure In The Smaller Media (at constant [1995] prices £m)

VFG plc Press Release, December 11 2000

DCMS: Priorities for Use Of Broadcasting Spectrum 470-854 MHz

The AHRB Centre for British Film and Television Studies

The Community Media Association


1977 Annan Committee Report on future of broadcasting calls for a more open & pluralistic approach to 4th channel.

1982 November. Channel 4 starts broadcasting. Editorial remit includes funding for non-profit film & video.

1983 Community Radio Association set up to campaign for a ‘third sector’ of broadcasting alongside BBC and commercial services

1988 November: White Paper 'Broadcasting in the 1990s: Competition, Choice & Quality' proposes a 5th TV Channel, and makes reference to idea of 'local' services on cable, microwave, etc.

1989 Dave Rushton & colleagues set up Institute of Local Television (ILT) in Edinburgh.
September:Chris Rowley (Head of TV Planning at IBA) proposes a hybrid local-national Channel 5 service at Royal Television Society meeting.

1990 January: Rowley publishes proposals in RTS Journal for a 'City TV' network for Channel 5, based on 33 stations using 66 transmitters.
November: New Broadcasting Act creates new category of 'restricted service' (28 day) licences for radio. Radio Authority subsequently issues over 1,600 radio RSLs.

1995 August: ITC suggest that local TV lobby seeks A TV equivalent to the radio RSL in upcoming Broadcasting Bill.

1996 February: Labour & Liberal Democrat Peers table amendments for TV RSLs to Broadcasting Bill. These are withdrawn when Govt. agrees to table its own amendments.
March: Govt. tables local TV amendments to the Broadcasting Bill, based on the wording of Radio RSL provisions.
July: New Broadcasting Act becomes law.
November: ITC begins consultation on draft guidelines for TV RSLs.

1997 Spring. Channel 5 goes on air.
April 1: TV RSL provisions of 96 Act come into force.
June: ITC publishes Guidelines on TV RSLs. Licences are offered for 56 day event-based broadcasts, and for 2 year location based services. CRA holds first seminar to promote bids for TV RSL licences.
September 30: Deadline for applications to ITC for 1st Round of TV RSLs. ITC receives 31 applications.
October 25
: CRA becomes the Community Media
Association (CMA).

1998 January 23: ITC makes provisional licence awards to Midland Broadcasting (Leicester) and Manchester Student TV (Manchester)
February 28: CMA holds second seminar on TV RSLs.
May 8: First TV RSL forum held in Sheffield. Local Independent Television Network (LiTN) formed. Network comprises TV RSLs operating as ‘local public service broadcasters’. CMA provide LiTN secretariat.
May 27: Deadline for second round of TV RSL bids To ITC. ITC receives 39 applications.
October 31: TV12 (Isle of Wight) goes on air
November: BBC, Sky, On-Digital etc start Digital Terrestrial TV services.

1999 May: Lanarkshire TV and Midlands Asian TV go on air.
May 27: deadline for 3rd round of TV RSL bids. ITC Receives 67 applications.
June: Oxford TV goes on air.
September: ITC announces extension of TV RSL licences from 2 to 4 years.
October 17: Derry TV RSL goes on air (re-launched in March 2000).

2000 February 14: Channel M, Manchester goes on air.
May 15: Taunton TV goes on air.
June: Radio Authority announce plans for ‘non profit’ ‘Access’ Radio stations
October 7: Richard Hooper (Radio Authority Chair) sets out their vision for ‘Access Radio’ to CMA Annual Festival in Birmingham.
November 2: ITC National Workshop in Sheffield on TV RSLs.
December 11: VFG plc announce launch of Local Broadcasting Group (LBG), and its acquisition of 36 TV RSL licences & applications.
December 12: DTI & DCMS publish White Paper 'A New Future for Communications' (Cm 5010).

2001 February 12: deadline for White Paper responses. CMA publish the Commedia Manifesto. This calls for a Community TV licence and for the establishment of a Community Media Fund. Radio Authority hold a Seminar on Access Radio, attended by 160 people.
February 28: Radio Authority responds to White Paper and reiterates its support for Access Radio
March: Commons Culture Committee Report on White Paper endorses the CMA's call for an expanded role for community radio.
March 31: Tony Stoller, Radio Authority Chief Executive gives a Keynote Address to Celtic Radio & TV Festival. This sets out framework for Access Radio pilot projects. He notes that at the February 12 Seminar "..there was a widespread feeling that Access Radio was an idea whose time had come..".
April. Home TV (Hertford & Ware) starts broadcasting.


Broadcast Area

TV12 was the first TV RSL to get on air (at the end of October 1998). It is based on the Isle of Wight (population 136,000) although its signal reaches out to the wider Solent coastal region (Portsmouth, Southsea, parts of Southampton and the New Forest). The company has also secured the licence to run a station in Chichester, which is scheduled to go on air later this year. The 2 stations together will have a potential audience of about 500,000 viewers. The station is now also available via the Isle of Wight cable TV service.

Company Structure

The company is owned by a mix of local business interests (eg Portsmouth Printing & Publishing) and shareholders drawn from the film and TV industry.

TV12's Chairman is Graham Benson. Benson is an independent TV producer (credits include the Ruth Rendell Mysteries) and is Chairman of PACT (Producers Alliance for Cinema and TV) – the UK's independent producers trade association.

The company's Managing Director is Paul Meade. Meade has worked as a broadcaster for Meridian TV and BBC Manchester, and for CBS and NBC affiliates in the USA.

Staffing & Operations

The station is run day to day by a staff of 5 full-timers and 2 part-timers under the direction of Station Manager Paul Topping. They operate from a small 'no frills' suite of offices in a former caretakers bungalow next to a local school. The station uses Sony digital video kit, and programme production, editing & transmission are handled in an informal 'multi-skilled' manner.

Programme Schedule

Using the tag 'Local TV Worth Watching', TV12 runs a 24 hour/7 day schedule, made up of 4 strands of material. The first strand is the station's own locally originated productions (local news, magazine & talk shows, quizzes, etc). The second strand is acquired programming (eg Toyota World of Wildlife, Cybernet, Movies Games and Videos). The third strand is provided by Sky News and QVC (a shopping channel) which are supplied to the station free of charge. Sky News is stripped across the day to provide regular national and international news bulletins, and QVC provides a sustaining service from 11pm to 1 am and for an hour from 9 am. The fourth strand of programming is a graphics based service which runs during the morning and early-mid afternoon. As well as the core TV and graphics output, the station also provides a local teletext service (Wightext) which offers local listings, weather forecasts, the TV12 schedule and information from Isle of Wight Council.

Local Production

The TV12 team produce a substantial volume of 'in house' programming. This includes local news & discussion shows, gardening and movie magazine shows, social action and quiz programmes. The station started making programmes in February 1998 (building up a stock of shows prior to the October 98 launch), and by the end of December 2000 they had made a total of 1,623 half hour programmes - which translates into 23 hours of TV per month for 35 months, a work rate of about 45 minutes of local production every day for almost 3 years.


The station's website is at: www.tv12.co.uk

Future Developments

In February 2001 the company announced that it had also acquired majority ownership of the licences to run stations in Swansea and Cardiff.


Broadcast Area

MATV went on air in May 1999. Its 'footprint' covers both Leicester and out into Leicestershire (via the local cable service). Its core programming is designed to appeal to the local Asian community in Leicester, but the channel delivers key strands of its output in English so as to draw in a wider public. The station's total potential audience is estimated at about 200,000 viewers.

Company Structure

The company is owned by local businessmen Vinod and Hitesh Popat, who have financed the venture to date with their own funds, bank lending and other local sources.

Staffing & Operations

MATV's premises are on an upper floor of a small office block on the fringe of Leicester City centre. The base includes both administrative and production offices as well as a small TV studio.The studio is used for talk format shows, guest interviews and other material calling for a small studio audience. The station uses digital video technology for production and editing. The Popats report a total staff of 22 people.

Programme Schedule

MATV runs a 7 day schedule, broadcasting TV for 17 hours a day from 7am to midnight. From midnight to 7 am their teletext channel provides a sustaining service with background music. The TV schedule has 5 strands of material. The first is their own locally originated production (local news, Asian language production, live talk, etc). The second strand is acquired Asian language feature films (shown in the afternoons and from 9pm). The third strand is other acquired Asian language programming. The fourth strand is acquired English language shows (eg Toyota World of Wildlife). The fifth strand is Sky News which comes free of charge and runs twice a day every day. The station's local teletext channel provides an additional service which is cross-promoted with the main schedule and runs 24/7.

Local Production

The station currently generates a reported 22% of 'in house' programming, and plan to increase this over time to around 30%. The flagship of their local news output is the weekday 'Leicestershire In Focus' - a half-hour English language news magazine which is now an accepted part of the local public affairs culture of both the City and the wider region. Anecdotal evidence and viewer feedback indicates that this programme reaches a wide audience. Similar responses have been found with the station's Asian language productions. The station has recently commissioned NOP to do more detailed survey work on their audience profile.


The station's website is at: www.matv.co.uk

Future Developments

The company is seeking to extend its local production into drama, and has completed a pilot for an Asian language soap opera. Discussions are continuing about resources for this new initiative.


Broadcast Area

Channel 9 first went on air in October 1999, and then re-organised under the current management team in March 2000. The station is based in Derry, Northern Ireland, but its transmitter footprint covers a wider regional area including Limavady and Coleraine. A further transmitter for Strabane has also received ITC clearance. At present the station has a potential audience of about 190,000. With the Strabane signal - and allowing for some overspill into the Irish Republic - this will rise to about 300,000.

Company Structure

The company is owned by a group of local business interests, including investors with a background in local entertainment.

Staffing & Operations

C9 is run by a staff of 30 full-timers under the direction of Station Manager Gary Porter. At present they operate from an industrial unit on the fringe of Derry City centre, but will be re-locating later this year to new premises on the City’s waterfront. The current base includes both a TV studio and administrative/production offices.

Programme Schedule

C9 runs a 7 day schedule, broadcasting for 19 hours per day from 7am in the morning to 2am at night. The schedule is made up of 3 strands of programming. The first strand - which accounts for the bulk of the airtime - is the station’s own local production, most of which is live to air. The second strand is Sky News which runs 4 times per day. The third strand is acquired programming (movie and games review magazines, music shows, etc).

Local Production

The C9 schedule is built around extended blocks of live, mostly studio-based programming. Overall, this local output accounts for about 75% of total transmissions. The schedule includes extended morning and afternoon shows, a 2 hour children’s slot, a weekly studio debate, and a 10pm - 1am show aimed at young adults. The anchor slot is from 6pm to 7pm, made up of a half hour local news slot, followed by a local sports news segment (15 minutes) and a consumer and local interest segment (15 minutes).

Market Research & Sales

C9 have commissioned their own market research to track audience trends & provide a baseline of data for marketing & airtime sales. The most recent survey (published February 2001) was done by Ulster Marketing Surveys.

This survey indicates that C9 has built up a leading place as a local media brand, and as a local news provider. Research indicates that the early evening local news slot now reaches about 36,000 viewers per night - a total weekly audience of around a quarter of a million. Survey data indicates that - for a large segment of the local audience - C9 is now the preferred local news provider, out performing the regional ‘opt outs’ coming from Ulster TV or the BBC

Overall, by running a schedule with a strongly ‘live and local’ ambience the station has built up strong viewer interest and awareness, and the sales data indicates that the station’s schedule is now seen as a prime vehicle for local advertising.

The station reports that it 'has has been trading at a satisfactory profit' for almost a year (ie since June 2000). Airtime sales income is currently split about 60/40 between local advertisers and national brands.


The station’s website is at: www.c9tv.tv

Channel 7: Realising the Potential of Local Television

By John Trevitt, Managing Director, Immage Studios/Channel 7.

Channel 7 is currently broadcasting 24 hours a day via NTL's cable system to approximately 70,000 viewers in the towns of Grimsby, Cleethorpes, Immingham and Scunthorpe. Most viewers live in the priority wards where approximately 60% have cable TV. We have 17 of the country's 2,000 most deprived wards in North East Lincolnshire alone.

If we are to realise the potential of local TV we must be able to prove that local broadcasting can make a difference to a range of social, political cultural, educational and economic challenges facing such communities. To do this, local television has to move beyond providing local news and features programming, laudable and needed as this is, and produce programmes and (online) materials which are targeted at each of these challenges.

Our policy has been to build a firm foundation of partnerships and relationships with the local authorities, newspapers, colleges, schools, business support agencies, community groups, local arts providers etc. This was seen as an essential prerequisite before the studios were built and the local television service started.

Being in an Objective 2 area with ERDF and SRB funding, we are producing programmes which seek to raise educational attainment and support community, economic and cultural regeneration initiatives. By way of example, we are working with the local Education Action Zone and Surestart initiatives and the local Community and Learning Partnerships to improve the culture of learning and raise levels of educational attainment in target areas such as GCSE maths and science and early years literacy and numeracy.

The vast majority of the population in the priority wards do not have a PC with internet access, so we believe the biggest challenge facing local television is to gain access to digital interactive broadcasting. We are very fortunate to be working closely with NTL and are developing TV friendly websites, particularly for our educational programmes.

We have already conducted small scale trials with NTL's analogue TV internet service for these educational programmes and associated sites. Our 'Make The Grade' GCSE revision website (www.osn/makethegrade.co.uk) achieved 100,000 hits and 8,000 subscribers in its first month.

An ERDF/SRB grant has been secured to research and develop interactive community broadcasting which supports social inclusion initiatives and assists in the revitalisation of local democracy. We are awaiting the roll out of NTL's digital service which would provide interactivity and access to the web via the TV set. Programmes will be made for, by and about the local community with integrated websites providing interactivity (and indeed voting!) via the V remote control.

We have a 3 year research programme with Lancaster University to determine the level of interest in and need for local interactive TV and more importantly, over time, determine its effectiveness in addressing the challenges. We are also working on the concept of 'Research Town': using the potential of interactive television to encourage the viewers to provide data for a wide range of social, market and audience research projects.

Building upon all this, we are seeking to create a centre for the research and development of, and training for, local interactive public service broadcasting. In partnership with Grimsby College and the Grimsby and Scunthorpe Evening Telegraphs we are planning to significantly increase the number of postgraduate broadcast journalism trainees and develop new training opportunities in camera, edit and multimedia production.

I look forward to keeping you informed on these and other developments in the future. I can be contacted by email at: trevitt@immage.net or by phone on 01469 515151.

[Reprinted with permission from the CMA magazine ‘Airflash’, Issue 71, 2-2001, page 24.]


The Radio Audience - Percentage Shares in 1999


Radio 1

10.4 %

Radio 2 12.6%
Radio 3 1.3%
Radio 4 11.0%
Radio 5 4.2%

BBC Local


Total BBC

50.2 %

Classic FM

Virgin AM 2.2%
Atlantic 252 0.8%
Talk Radio 1.6%

Local Commercial


Total Commercial




Source: Advertising Association Yearbook 2000, Table 12.2


Advertising Expenditure in the Smaller Media (at constant [1995] prices £million)


Outdoor & Transport









at current prices





Source: Advertising Association Statistics Yearbook, Table 1.3

The AHRB Centre for British Film and Television Studies

The Centre is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Board (AHRB) as part of its new programme of longer term support for high quality and in-depth research in selected subject areas. This Centre is one of ten in the United Kingdom, funded for a period of five years from 2000-2005. It is currently the only AHRB Centre in the area of film and television studies.

The Centre consists of a partnership of seven academic institutions:

Birkbeck, University of London
University of Brighton - South East Film and Video Archive
Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, The London Institute
University of Exeter - Bill Douglas Centre
Royal College of Art
Sheffield Hallam University
University of Ulster
together with support from the British Film Institute.

The Centre has two main areas of interest: film and television history and film and television policy with an emphasis on the value of archival research and the importance of public policy issues. Sheffield Hallam University has a particular interest in policy issues and in the exploration of the themes of the indigenous and the exportable in film and television culture.

The AHRB is the body charged by the UK government with responsibility for supporting research in the arts and humanities.

Nationally, the Centre can be contacted through its Director, Professor Laura Mulvey at the AHRB Centre for British Film and Television Studies, Birkbeck College, University of London, 43 Gordon Square, London WC1H OPD.

Email: centre@bftv.ac.uk

In Sheffield the Centre can be contacted through Professor Sylvia Harvey, Principal Associate Director, AHRB Centre for British Film and Television Studies, Sheffield Hallam University, School of Cultural Studies, Psalter Lane, Sheffield S11 8UZ.

Email: s.m.harvey@shu.ac.uk

The Community Media Association

The Community Media Association is the UK association for Community Media.

The CMA supports people to establish and develop local media enterprises for community-based creative and cultural expression, community development, information and entertainment. It is a not-for-profit association with 150 community media organisations in membership and 300 affiliates.

The CMA provides information, advice, training and consultancy. It produces publications and organises events, and it represents the interests of community media to Government, regulators, industry and the voluntary sector. The CMA also provides the Secretariat for the Local Independent Television Network, which brings together TV RSL licence holders and applicants

The CMA was founded in 1983, in Sheffield, as the Community Radio Association, following a series of standing conferences on community radio. It changed its name and remit to Community Media Association in 1997. The CMA is supported by the Arts Council, Yorkshire and Humberside Arts, the National Lottery Charities Board, the Millennium Commission, New Opportunities Fund, the Department for Education and Employment, the European Social Fund, Sheffield Training and Enterprise Council and Sheffield SRB Partnership.

The CMA is governed by a Council elected annually by the membership. The CMA Council membership is drawn from throughout the UK with the majority of Council members being directly involved in local Community Media projects. The CMA is recognised by Government and industry as the voice of community broadcasting in the UK and it regularly contributes to public consultations on media and communications policy.

Community Media Association
15 Paternoster Row, Sheffield S1 2BX
Tel +44 (0) 114 279 5219
Fax +44 (0) 114 279 8976



Last modified 6 October, 2005 ; web@bftv.ac.uk