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Former Labour culture secretary Ben Bradshaw predicts local TV ‘flop’

By William Turvill

Former Labour culture secretary Ben Bradshaw has predicted that the Government’s local TV scheme will “flop”.

He described local TV as Jeremy Hunt’s “pet project”, which he backed despite reservations from the industry and politicians.

Last week YourTV Blackpool & Preston became the 19th and final bidder to be awarded a licence to run a local TV station in the UK.

The Government originally identified 21 areas for the first round of local TV licences – but there were no bidders to run services in Swansea or Plymouth.

Bradshaw, a former newspaper and broadcast journalist, said that the last Labour government had looked at the scheme but decided it was a “non-starter”.

“This was an obsession of Jeremy Hunt’s at the time,” he told Press Gazette.

“Even his independent review came back and said it was a waste of money – it will never work.

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“But as it was his only idea he went ahead and pushed it. We’ll have to see what happens.”

He said it was the view of Labour that the priority should have been maintaining the quality of regional news on ITV.

“We had established these regional news consortia using a top slice from the BBC licence fee, which everyone now agrees is a very sensible thing to do – although the Tories and BBC opposed it vigorously at the time.”

On Hunt’s decision to use a smaller amount of BBC licence fee money for local TV instead, Bradshaw said: “It may work in London but I wouldn’t have thought it will work anywhere else.

“I’m afraid, like so much of what this Government is doing, it's not evidence based, it’s not properly thought through, and I suspect it will flop as we predicted.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said: “The awarding of licences to run local TV stations has been a real success with 57 bidders competing to run 19 town and city-based TV channels.
“We are transforming the media industry in the UK, creating new jobs and opportunities while providing people with a fresh way to be informed about their local community.
“The first channels will begin broadcasting by the end of the year.  Truly local TV services will soon become a reality for millions of people across the UK.”

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