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BBC plots to run local Freeview network and get its money back

The BBC could win back £25m of its own Licence Fee cash if it goes ahead with a successful bid to run the UK’s local TV network.

Ofcom local TV coverage mapAuntie Beeb is understood to be planning a bid for MuxCo, which will provide capacity for a new group of Freeview TV channels in more than 20 towns and cities.

Cities including Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester (full local TV candidate list here) have been invited to launch local TV channels on the new short-range capacity.

TV industry trade newspaper Broadcast reports that the BBC is drawing up informal plans to bid for MuxCo, which will be funded by a ring-fenced chunk of the TV Licence fee.

A BBC spokesperson said: “To support the government’s local TV objectives, the BBC is considering making an application to Ofcom for the local TV multiplex licence, for which £25m of licence fee money has been allocated.”

Only one company has announced a bid to run MuxCo: Canis Media, which already helps TV channels to purchase Freeview spectrum and EPG slots on various digital TV platforms.

Canis Media has proposed a cooperative of local TV channel operators to run MuxCo, called Comux, who would share the revenue from other channels on the local TV multiplex.

The shortlist of likely MuxCo operators includes one other name – Arqiva – which already operates all of the UK’s TV and radio transmitters, and the three commercial Freeview multiplexes.

Whoever ends up running MuxCo, Arqiva will have to upgrade the UK’s Freeview transmitter network with new kit to broadcast the local TV muliplexes.

Local TV is a personal project of culture secretary Jeremy Hunt, and Ofcom will pick a MuxCo operator later this year in a value-for-money beauty contest auction.

The channels would sit at number 6 on the Freeview EPG, and will also be available on Sky, Freesat and Virgin Media, although Ofcom is still negotiating how it would appear in the other programme guides.