Leeds and Grimsby first in line for their own TV stations

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LEEDS and Grimsby will be the first places in the region to get their own TV stations under Government plans to set up local TV across the country.

Licences for the channels are expected to be awarded next year and broadcasting could begin in early 2013, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has revealed.

Mr Hunt said there had been “significant” interest from potential operators and audiences after a consultation carried out in 65 towns and cities, and claimed the establishment of channels would come to be seen as the most important broadcasting change of current times.

Leeds and Grimsby will be among the first 20 to go ahead, with Sheffield and York earmarked to be among a second wave of 24 areas following a year later.

The stations will be required to offer at least an hour of news and current affairs a day and will receive some initial funding from the BBC licence fee but will then be expected to become commercially viable through advertising.

Mr Hunt said: “Local TV will be a fundamental change in broadcasting in this country, meeting a real demand for local news and content.

“We are now putting in place the measures needed to establish a series of commercially viable local TV stations.

“I am confident these new stations will provide local communities with programming which is relevant to their daily lives, will support local democracy, boost the Big Society and enhance local communities.”

Mr Hunt has championed local TV for many years, seizing on its success in other countries such as the United States. Although previous attempts to set up channels in the UK have failed, he insists the current model will dramatically cut costs.

He insists the new offering will run alongside existing regional news. The Leeds station will also cover Dewsbury, Halifax, Huddersfield and Wakefield.

In some areas local newspaper companies have expressed interest in bidding for licences as have other creative firms.

The BBC has agreed to hand over £40m towards the project, with £25m going towards paying for infrastructure and hardware and the remainder committed over three years for buying stories from the local stations.

Mr Hunt said regulator Ofcom will award licences according to the quality of the proposed offering as well as the financial viability, describing the process as “not an auction, it’s a beauty parade”. Licences will be awarded next year, with broadcasting starting in 2013.

Asked about the likely content, Mr Hunt said: “I don’t want to be prescriptive because this is a new sector, we’re in the middle of big technological changes.

“I think some may choose to have an hour of local original content that’s looped over 24 hours, other people may choose to syndicate national programming in addition from other channels.”