Local TV: Keep Calm and It’s Not That Bad

Local TV: Keep Calm and It’s Not That Bad

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Tuesday, 12th August 2014

Describing the new digital model for local television in the UK, Chris Romily, Comux UK's Chief Technical Officer, said "What's happening here is something new for television, new locally, new for news and... new for everything." During June, RTS Wales Members (above) were given a presentation and guided tour of the Comux Broadcast Centre by Romily and Broadcast Consultant, Arshad Rasul (formerly Chief Engineer with S4C). The company argues it has revolutionised the way television can be networked and broadcast. Rasul explained: "We're currently set up to carry 19 separate services, but we have capacity to expand to 40."

Following a successful bid to Ofcom by Comux owners Canis Media to run the UK local television multiplex, the Birmingham based company has received £25 million from the BBC to build and maintain the network. Meanwhile the BBC is also providing £15 million over three years to local TV operators to produce news content which will also be used by BBC News. "It's paid in advance. That's quite generous," said Rasul. "But in return, each local TV operator is obligated to supply up to 85 stories per month to the founder. The money provides the access to the content and the BBC can choose whatever they wish," he added.

ComuxCurrently 28 local TV stations have been licensed by Ofcom to offer local services, six of which are now live in Grimsby, London, Norwich, Nottingham, Glasgow and Brighton. A further 21 are due to air over the next few years. In Wales, along with licences granted to Swansea and Mold, Made in Cardiff, part of the Made In group, promises to be on air 24/7. The show aims to broadcast an hour of live news every night for the city with a sustaining service provided by Made In. Its licence application also states it will produce programmes "in association with the students of Cardiff University". Although Jeremy Hunt's original plan drew a sceptical reaction from the industry, Comux appears to have provided an elegant solution to the significant transmission and distribution logistics posed by local television in the digital age, leaving local stations to focus on the business of producing compelling content.

By Fan Wang, International Journalism Student, Cardiff University

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