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Local TV: Ofcom to merge Gloucester-Hereford and Maidstone-Tonbridge areas

Ofcom is to force forthcoming Local TV broadcast areas in Gloucester and Hereford and Maidstone and Tonbridge to merge. 

Based on responses to a consultation posted in June, Ofcom has decided that four Local TV broadcast areas will consolidate with the Gloucester and Hereford areas to be renamed ‘Gloucester’ while Maidstone and Tonbridge will come under the ‘Maidstone’ umbrella.

The regulator and respondents argued that the adjoining areas share cultural institutions and that economically it would be more sensible to aggregate coverage under a single, larger coverage area. 

Local TV: Ofcom to merge Gloucester-Hereford and Maidstone-Tonbridge areas

Read Recombu Digital’s guide to Local TVQuite how residents of Hereford and Tonbridge feel l about having their names struck off is another matter. Only one of the seven respondents argued that Local TV should be as local as possible, saying that the mergers would precipitate greater consolidation across the country. 

The The Triple Broadcasting Co, which is going after Local TV licences in the Gloucester area, wants even more consolidation. It’s proposing to merge Gloucester, Hereford and Greater Malvern as it argues the area will be “creatively and editorially improved by covering a single area, in a way that more closely matches the audiences real life relationship with the communities and geography served.” 

Note that in some cases, such as Blackpool and Preston, Local TV broadcasting already transcends the borders of towns. So while there can be a debate over what constitues ‘local’, residents across areas with a shared cultural link to various towns ought to get the same services too. The market town of Ledbury for example is roughly equidistent between the three towns and cities on the map above, and yet based on Ofcom’s indicative coverage maps, it looks like its just out of the range of the Hereford transmitter.

While Ofcom has consented to Gloucester and Hereford’s merging, it’s been announced that further consultation on this three-way merger is needed. Ofcom has also announced that it will launch a separate consultation on merging Local TV licences in Luton and Bedford, or just ‘Bedford’ as it may eventually be known. 

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