Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Supplementary memorandum submitted by the Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport

  When I appeared before the Select Committee on 12 March, I said that I would write to you about the matter of the length of validity of Restricted Service Licences (RSLs), which was raised by Adrian Flook.

  Restricted Service Licences for local television services are granted by the Independent Television Commission (ITC). Licences are available to cover particular establishments or locations for specific events. They are available only in areas where there are spare analogue frequencies. Under the provisions of the Broadcasting Act 1996, it is for the Independent Television Commission (ITC) to determine how to licence RSLs.

  Originally, RSLs were valid for two years, but in September 1999, the ITC announced that the length of licence of RSLs would be extended to four years. This change was in response to representations from the RSL community who had argued that the two year extension period was too short. Towards the end of the licence period licencees can seek renewal, subject to frequency availability and whether there are any competing applicants. Any further changes to the extension to the length of validity of these licences is a matter for the ITC.

  The Government recognises the value of local television channels to viewers and in our White Paper: A New Future for Communications, we considered the future role of local television in the context of meeting the needs of local communities. We acknowledge in the White Paper that all television local restricted service licensees face a problem of spectrum uncertainty and that the Government's spectrum management strategy of giving priority to the roll out of digital terrestrial television services, limits business confidence in Restricted Service Licence. The White Paper affirms that a post switchover plan will be developed to give RSL organisations a clearer indication of long term prospects for local television services.

  I hope this helps to clarify the position.

18 March 2002

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