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Wannabe media barons outed in UK local telly bid list

Swansea and Plymouth, no homegrown TV for you

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Ofcom has published the list of organisations bidding to run Local TV stations in the UK. The list of those who want to operate the actual broadcast equipment is much shorter.

Fifty-seven companies have bid for franchises that will permit them to transmit homegrown telly in White Space - pockets of unused radio frequencies dotted around Blighty. While the most popular cities attracted five bids apiece, Swansea and Plymouth received no bids at all, so will have to do without Local TV for a while. On the broadcast side, four companies threw their hats into the ring in the hope of snagging some BBC funding.

The Beeb will put up £25m to pay for the necessary infrastructure, but that didn't stop Auntie bidding under the name LMux anyway. The other bidders were Comux, which went public with its hippy-commune approach last week, and satellite outfit Avanti, which certainly has the technical nous but could be trumped by the Community Media Association - which wants to bring the Big Society into broadcasting.

The selected broadcaster gets the eight-figure cheque from the BBC. Each region gets three channels, but only one of which will be filled by the Local TV broadcast: the other two can be sold off to the highest bidder.

A number of organisations bidding for the TV channel slots are emphasising their community roots, although there are at least three chain operations bidding for multiple cities with a view to keeping costs down. YourTV bid across seven cities, Metro8 managed eight while Made In tops the chains with 11 bids.

Ofcom didn't exclude such bids, but the idea of local stations opting in, or out, of nationally produced content is very much against the spirit of Local TV so the bidders will need to emphasis how local they intend to make each franchise.

Bristol, Brighton and Hove, and Grimsby, didn't attract the attention of the chains, or nearly anyone else: each has a single bidder that will have to be pretty terrible not to get the franchise. In the other 15 areas Ofcom will decide on the best bid, based on the submitted documents and what the regulator thinks is sustainable.

Sustainability will be helped by a BBC commitment to buy £5m of content from the Local channels every year for the next three years, and if the channels have any success then the government is committed to identifying another 40 locations where Local TV could be launched. A lot will depend on how this lot fair. ®

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