BBC mulls seizing the wheel of Local TV
Auntie in line to get £25m from... the BBC
The BBC is considering a bid for control of the Local TV multiplex, putting the national broadcaster in line for £25m from the pockets of the, er, national broadcaster.
Local TV is the UK coalition government's attempt to squeeze 20 small-area telly stations into the White Space gaps of unused radio spectrum in an effort to create "communities".
The BBC bid isn't official yet. However, the broadcaster has confirmed that it's considering a pitch for the contract, which would be funded initially from the licence fee that otherwise pays the BBC's bills. The running costs will be met by the Local TV companies using the service.
Broadcast magazine reckons the Beeb has hired ex-Channel-M-controller John Furlong to advise on the bid, which will be judged as a beauty contest by watchdog Ofcom later this year.
The regulator, which has been tasked with making Local TV happen, has decided there should be a single broadcaster known as MuxCo, which will manage distribution of the local channels to transmitter sites likely to be run by Arqiva.
Arqiva runs the vast majority of Freeview broadcast masts, so unless MuxCo plans to ask viewers to adjust their TV aerials then they'll have to strike a deal with Arqiva, assuming that MuxCo doesn't end up being run by Arqiva.
Ofcom has said that three companies expressed an interest in running MuxCo, and we understand that Arqiva drafted a bid but is still deciding whether or not to take the plunge. With the BBC admitting its own interest, that just leaves Comux as the last of the trio and the only player without an existing interest in the industry.
Well... nearly. Comux is a spinoff from Canis Media, which makes a living advising companies mulling launching Local TV channels, but the intention is that Cumux will be a cooperative owned and run by the Local TV licensees, once such licensees exist.
Ofcom will look at all the proposals, just as it will with pitches to run Local TV stations, and then pick the bid it thinks will provide the best value for money - effectively a beauty contest.
It's the same criteria that was used to award ITV channels in the UK, before the last Conservative government switched to a highest-bidder approach leading ultimately to the consolidation of all the local channels into a single monolithic broadcaster, but that's bound not to happen this time. ®
Makes sense. The entire local TV model is commercially unsustainable. The local radio industry has collapsed in recent years with stations closing, being merged with neighbours or in many cases being turned into semi-national networks.
The local TV stations may start off with lofty ambitions, but commercial reality will soon hit. Even a city like Manchester couldn't sustain Channel M, and the station on the Isle of Wight spent most of its time playing imported kids shows or terrible prints of 1930's movies.
If the Beeb can somehow get involved and use the resources at it's local radio stations to provide news and even facilities then it might stand a chance of working.
Of course Jezza "bullet-proof" Hunt hates the BBC with a passion so it won't happen. He'll hand it out to his local newspaper buddies and the entire thing will collapse into a national "Heart" sty;e network within 5 years.
FailMux more like
"What shall we watch tonight guys?..."
"Well we could watch the X Factor on ITV1, some random period drama on BBC1 that looks quite good, The Wire on Sky Thingamabob, that really cool film about that cool thing that happened on FilmFour or we could shoot some terrorists on XBOX if none of that takes your fancy!"
"I know, lets watch Basingstoke TV!!! It's bound to be good! Order a pizza guys and settle down for a fun filled night of documentaries about very old people talking about how they didn't have a toilet in their house when they were young and Powerpoint slide shows listing local job vacancies and details of church-hall coffee mornings and jumble sales!"
Can't see it happening some how.
1990 franchise round
It wasn't even anything as concrete as a "business plan" in 1990. It was highest bidder + "quality threshold". The quality threshold bit was only added as such a fuss was made about it being highest bidder only. It was all very vague. It had to be the highest bid that they thought was realistic. As such it made the entire thing rather fuzzy.
Interestingly Carlton had to go back cap in hand to the ITC to get a reduction in their licence fees a few years after winning. So they basically won because they overbid. Nobody outside the Tory government or Carlton at the time thought anyone but Thames should have won. Over 20 years operating the largest and most successful franchise didn't count for anything and it later turned out that the figures Thames submitted were spot on!