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Applications to run more white-space Local TV stations invited

Button 8 placement perhaps to reflect number of viewers

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Ofcom is looking for more aspiring telly barons, with another 28 Local TV franchises up for grabs along with the two that no-one wanted last time around.

Those two are Swansea and Plymouth, but the other 19 Local TV channels from round one have been awarded and should be on air around the end of this year. Now, anyone who fancies running a TV channel covering Tonbridge, or Mold, or even Reading, should get their applications in before April 24 to be considered.

The Local TV channels will broadcast in White Space spectrum, bands which aren't used for existing broadcasts locally but are used somewhere and thus full-power transmissions aren't allowed. The broadcasting will be managed by the co-operatively owned Comux, which won the right in a beauty contest and happily shares an address with Arqiva, which will handle the actual transmissions. We're assured the relationship is only geographical.

Each location will get a Local TV station, which will be exempted from caps on advertising and will be able to sell content to the BBC (which has been browbeaten into promising to buy £5m of programming a year from the local outfits). Each location will also get two commercial channels, and Comux plans to fund transmission through the sale of those channels.

How Local TV will compete with existing channels, and the internet, is far from clear: but companies and individuals are pouring money into creating Local TV channels in the 19 areas already licensed, so someone believes in the vision even if the commercial model seems hard to credit.

Much store is placed on Local TV's favourable positioning in the Freeview EPG. Local TV will sit at channel 8 in England, but in Scotland that's taken by BBC Alba so the channels for Aberdeen and Inverness will have to sit elsewhere. The companies involved are certain that being so well placed will bring in the viewers.

Not everyone will be wishing them success: one of the cities up for grabs, Cambridge, is already filling its White Space with communication signals as it leads the world in development of the technology for different purposes. Putting a Local TV channel in that space would reduce what's available for everyone else even if they don't choose to watch it.

Those who do think Local TV has a future in Aberdeen, Dundee, Mold, Ayr, Guildford, Plymouth, Bangor, Hereford, Reading, Barnstaple, Inverness, Salisbury, Basingstoke, Kidderminster, Scarborough, Bedford, Limavady, Stoke on Trent, Bromsgrove, Luton, Stratford upon Avon, Cambridge, Maidstone, Swansea, Carlisle, Malvern, Tonbridge, Derry/Londonderry, Middlesbrough or York can get an application to Ofcom or have a word with Comux for some advice on the subject. ®

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