The roll-out of local television has taken a few steps forward over the last couple of weeks. On 4 February, Ofcom announced the award of the London local TV licence to ESTV Limited, which will operate under the London Live name. With a potential audience of up to 4 million homes, the London service will have the largest reach of all local TV services in the UK. Applications were received by Ofcom to run local TV services in 19 of the 21 areas in which Ofcom invited applications. 15 local TV licences have now been granted, with further awards expected in the coming months. No applications were received in Swansea or Plymouth and Ofcom will soon be seeking final expressions of interest for those local TV licences.
More significantly, Ofcom finally awarded the local TV multiplex licence for digital terrestrial TV (DTT) on 28 January. Delays in the multiplex licence award had been causing frustrations for local TV service licence holders keen to push ahead with their broadcast plans. The multiplex licence was awarded to Comux UK Limited, a company which will be owned by the holders of the local TV service licences and supported by Canis Media. In addition to the areas in which Ofcom has already started the process of licensing local TV services (including Birmingham, Leeds, London, Manchester and Norwich), Comux has offered to cover a range of other locations (including Bedford, Cambridge, Luton and Stoke) if local TV services licences are awarded in those areas. Once DTT broadcasting starts later this year, local TV channels will be found at position 8, in England and Northern Ireland, and position 45, in Wales and Scotland, on the Freeview electronic programme guide (EPG).
Finally, Mills & Reeve client Mustard TV, the local TV licence holder in Norwich, launched its online service on 31 January, with a lively mix of news, sport and lifestyle programming. Other local TV licence holders will be doing the same soon as they continue to build towards the first DTT broadcasts later in 2013.