A particular case: local and
61. Local and community broadcasting in the UK is
an uncertain business. The available analogue licences are short-term,
four years instead of the 10 year regional licenses, and they
are interruptible if the ITC finds a better use for the spectrum.
In addition they have yet no place going forward into the digital
era. On this basis the Local Broadcasters Group (LBG), a commercial
undertaking with six restricted service licences for local TV
broadcasting around the country, and the Community Media Association,
asserted that sufficient investment was extremely hard to attract
to the sector and a secure environment for further development
could not be provided. Indeed during the course of this inquiry
the LBG went into administration.
62. The Community Media Association stated that local
and community television had a significant contribution to make
to the local communications environment, providing access to local
information, encouraging citizens' participation, providing a
platform for diverse cultures and viewpoints and offering a counterbalance
to the increasing concentration of television ownership and the
reduction in regional programming commitments.
We believe that local and community TV and radio has the potential
to contribute to the social, economic and political development
of local areas. Our predecessors referred to the opportunity to
exploit the potential offered by local television based on a more
imaginative approach to public service broadcasting.
We reiterate that view.
63. We are concerned that the continuing delay in
the publication of the main Communications Bill has taken the
announcement of new policy in this area beyond the 12-month licences
initially granted to the "Access Radio" pilots. This
period was originally determined on the basis that the Communications
Bill be published, if not in force, before the expiry of these
welcome initiatives. In its reply to this report the Government
must set out its conclusions on the outturn of these pilot schemes
for a tier of not-for-profit community radio services (and provide
detail on what has happened to them in the interim between initial
licence and new legislation).
64. We recommend that the Government assess the
Community Media Association's scheme for two tiers of licence
for local broadcasting (not-for-profit and commercial) and set
out its conclusions in its reply to this report. This must be
accompanied by a statement of its policy on the provision of secure
and commercially viable licences for the development of digital
broadcasting of local and community services and their place,
if any, within the ecology of public service broadcasting across