Local TV’s return to the UK has lost its first runner, with Birmingham’s City TV going bust months before it due to air its first broadcast.
City TV was one of the first local TV channels to win a licence under the auspices of former culture secretary Jeremy Hunt in November 2012, and was supposed to go on air by November this year.
Homeopathy fan Hunt, who’s now in charge of life-and-death decisions as health secretary, and admits he doesn’t watch much TV, warned in June that some of the local TV channels were bound to go bust.
City TV’s administrators said it is looking for a new owner though, before the cause is completely lost: “The joint administrators are seeking expressions of interest from parties interested in acquiring the licence and who believe that they are likely to obtain the consent of Ofcom for any transfer.”
A business memo attached to the statement from the administrators said BLTV (the company’s official name) doesn’t have any business premises or broadcast equipment. Its only real asset is the Ofcom licence to broadcast a local channel on Freeview.
Made TV, which is setting up local TV stations in Cardiff, Bristol and Newcastle, has said it’s interested in the licence, but Your TV, which is preparing to launch in Manchester and Blackpool/Preston, has ruled itself out.
Both broadcasters said it would be impossible to launch a Birmingham channel by November, and suggested Ofcom will have to change to licence to allow a new start date in Spring 2015.
Ofcom has awarded 30 local TV licences, including one to London Live, the channel of the capital. Despite there being a potential audience of eight million people, the channel isn’t particularly popular, with only thousands of people tuning in to at prime time and many shows attracting unmeasurably low audiences
Last month, London Live told Ofcom it can’t afford to produce the level of local TV promised in its original licence bid, and asked to reduce the number of hours of local content.