Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has revealed plans for a sixth TV channel, focused on local news. It's the first in a wave of planned local channels and could be on air by next year.
The new channel will broadcast across the nation, with national content and different local programmes in each area. It's a similar idea to ITV, only with a focus on local news, rather than torturing celebrities in jungles and members of the public in karaoke competitions.
Hunt revealed the plan at a media conference in Oxford today, when he also invited prospective telly supremos to register their interest in running the new channel.
The channel will launch as the sixth terrestrial channel, appearing on Freeview first and potentially on Sky and Virgin Media's telly services later. The government will introduce legislation to snare Channel Hunt a decent spot on the electronic programme guide, away from the niche-programming hinterland way down the listings -- a vital requirement if the channel is to take off.
The channel will be paid for by local and national advertising, a risky strategy seeing as ITV is busy cutting news and local programmes as fast as it can wield the axe. That clever Hunt has mitigated some of the risk by dipping into the BBC's piggy bank to chuck up to £25m at local channels. This comes after the BBC was forced to limit its world-class online presence because the newspapers got their knickers in a twist.
Maybe we're biased, but we'd rather see the government put its weight behind the Web. The Internet has a much better capacity to provide us with local news and information, especially if integrated with local services like those run by the council.
This first channel is expected to hit the airwaves before the end of 2012. A further ten to 15 local services are hoped to launch before 2015. Do you want to see local programmes for local people? Pop your thoughts in the comments section below.