Independent producers and local tv

Evidence Base (for summary sheets)

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Evidence Base (for summary sheets)


The Government’s initiative to set up a local TV market in the UK is taking place in a highly regulated broadcasting environment. Some of the existing legislation was never designed to apply to very localised services like local TV. There is a risk to the commercial success of a newly emerging local TV market which the Government is enabling through separate intervention if some existing regulations remain in place. The regulations were designed to apply to well-established, nationwide broadcasters; not local TV.

The regulations are:

  • producers will lose their independent status (and hence the ability to bid for a share of the regulated independent production quota) if they own more than 25% of any broadcaster; and

  • broadcasters must purchase at least 10% of their content from independent producers.

These requirements were originally introduced to comply with the requirements of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMS); to increase the variety of opinions, styles, genres and voices available on national TV; to encourage a viable independent production sector; and to minimise the dominant effect national TV broadcasters could have through a single powerful production company. The regulation has proved effective in these respects.

However, it is considered that in the case of local TV, the scale of operations and influence is likely to mean that even if a particular production company sought to dominate local TV broadcasters for its own reasons, the ill-effects are unlikely to be significant if considered in terms of variety, style, genre and voice. We would, though, be concerned if an independent production company’s main business became the running of local TV services, rather than the generation of independent content for onward sale to broadcasters, because that could stand to blur the important distinction between “broadcaster” and “independent producer”. For this reason, we plan to include a restriction whereby an independent producer can have full ownership of a local TV licence, but this cannot become its main business activity (i.e. cannot constitute more than 49% of its revenues).

Moreover, the 10% quota requirement may prevent local TV broadcasters from finding the lowest-cost solution to provide content. Hence, it is proposed that – in the case of local TV only – the two legislative barriers that apply to independent producers should be relaxed in the context of local TV. For this reason, the Government is proposing to consult on removing these specific regulations from applying to licensed local TV broadcasters.

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