Licensing Local Television - How Ofcom would exercise its new powers and duties being proposed by Government

  • Start: 19 December 2011
  • Status: Closed
  • End: 19 March 2012

Following the Government's statements of policy in A new framework for local TV in the UK, Local TV: Pioneer locations, and Local TV: Making the vision happen, it has laid three Orders before Parliament that, if they enter into force, would create a statutory framework for local television. These are the Local Digital Television Programme Services Order ('s.244 Order'), the Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006 (Directions to OFCOM) Order ('s.5 Order') and the Code of Practice for Electronic Programme Guides (Addition of a Programme Service) Order ('s.310 Order').

Respectively, the Orders would create a framework for licensing a new class of television services; direct Ofcom to reserve spectrum for these services; and establish the status of these services in relation to Electronic Programme Guides (EPGs).

Ofcom is consulting now so that we can advertise licences as soon as possible. The proposals in this document are based on the Orders being passed by Parliament, and all are conditional on that happening. If the Orders were not passed, Ofcom would withdraw this consultation and give notice to this effect.

Licensing Local Television - How Ofcom would exercise its new powers and duties being proposed by Government PDF, 421.1 KB

Licensing Local Television - Statement updated 15|05|12 and 29|06|12 PDF, 688.5 KB

A report prepared by Zetacast on behalf of Ofcom

The legislation that has put in place the framework allowing Ofcom to license local television services anticipates that the services will be broadcast on unused frequencies amongst the national DTT multiplexes; so-called geographic interleaved (GI) spectrum. The power of the local multiplex transmitters will need to be kept to modest levels though to avoid causing interference to the national multiplexes and also to minimise operating costs for the local services.

We therefore anticipate that the multiplexes will adopt a rugged variant of the DVB-T transmission standard to maximise their coverage. However, there is a trade-off between signal robustness (and therefore coverage) with the number of services that can be accommodated in the multiplex.

Ofcom is required to ensure that the local TV multiplexes are capable of carrying three programme services; one of these services would be the local service and the other two could be national services. We therefore commissioned some research from Zetacast to determine how much capacity and therefore which signal mode might be most appropriate choice for the local multiplex.

Zetacast considered four ways that the local and national services might be brought together in a local multiplex of varying cost and complexity. They compared the resulting bitrate requirements with the capacities offered by two candidate signal modes: QPSK rate 2/3 and QPSK rate 3/4 which offer capacities of approximately 8Mbit/s and 9Mbit/s respectively. For each scenario they assessed whether the modes offered sufficient capacity to support three video services and the degree of compromise that might be needed (such as reducing the picture resolution) ancillary services such as subtitling and audio description

The report concludes that either of the modes could support three video services. However a greater degree of compromise is required if QPSK rate 2/3 is used, such as reducing picture resolution and adopting more expensive methods for combining the local and national services. QPSK rate provides fewer constraints on the services and the opportunity to adopt simpler infrastructure.

Zetacast: Local Television Multiplex Capacity Assessment PDF, 560.8 KB

A report prepared by DTG on behalf of Ofcom.

The legislation that has put in place the framework allowing Ofcom to license local television services anticipates that the services will be broadcast on unused frequencies amongst the national DTT multiplexes; so-called geographic interleaved (GI) spectrum. The power of the local multiplex transmitters will need to be kept to modest levels though to avoid causing interference to the national multiplexes and also to minimise operating costs for the local services.

Ofcom therefore anticipates that the multiplexes will adopt a rugged variant of the DVB-T transmission standard to maximise their coverage. While these rugged signal variants have always formed a part of the DVB-T specification for digital television, none has previously been used in the UK by DTT services. Ofcom has therefore commissioned some research to determine how compatible existing receivers are with some of the signal modes under consideration.

The Digital Television Group (DTG) possesses probably the most extensive collection of current and past models of DTT receivers in the UK in its'zoo'. Ofcom commissioned DTG to test the receiver zoo against three candidate signal modes, QPSK rate 2/3, QPSK rate 3/4vand 16-QAM rate 1/2.

Almost all receivers were found to be compatible with these signals. Only three models were found to behave unexpectedly and two of these are already known to be problematic for other reasons.

DTG: Local TV mode receiver compatibility tests  PDF, 128.1 KB

DTG: Local TV mode receiver compatibility tests - Annex A PDF, 66.6 KB

In response to the Licensing Local TV consultation, several stakeholders asked for greater clarity concerning the likely position of local television services in the Electronic Programme Guides. Ofcom has therefore written to the main EPG providers asking for clarity on their proposed policy for listing of local television services that, when licensed, will be subject to section 310 of the Communications Act 2003, which requires that these services be afforded appropriate prominence as public service broadcasters. The responses that Ofcom has received are published in this section.

Three Orders have been passed by Parliament, which give Ofcom the necessary powers and duties to license a new generation of local television services.

1.2 Ofcom has consulted on how it would exercise these new powers and duties to create a licensing framework for local television. We set out our proposals before the Orders were passed so as not to delay the timetable for launching new local TV services. Our consultation Licensing Local Television was published on 19 December 2011 and closed on 19 March 2012.

1.3 This Statement concludes that consultation and sets out how we will advertise and award licences for, and regulate, the local television multiplex and local TV channels ('local digital television programme services' or 'L-DTPS').

1.4 Ofcom received 72 consultation responses, which are addressed in this Statement. As well as responses on our consultation questions, we also sought expressions of interest in the licences we were proposing to advertise. We received 87 distinct expressions of interest in local digital television programme service licences; and 3 expressions of interest in the local multiplex licence.

1.5 The L-DTPS licence is only for a service carried on this local multiplex, i.e. on digital terrestrial television (DTT). L-DTPS licensees may wish to distribute their services on satellite and/or on cable and/or online, subject to commercial negotiations. A separate Television Licensable Content Service (TLCS) licence would be required for any such simulcasts.

1.6 Alongside this Statement, we have published the formal Invitation to Apply for a Local Multiplex Licence and Invitation to Apply for an L-DTPS Licence for the first 21 locations.

Licensing Local Television - Full print version - updated 15|05|12 and 29|06|12 PDF, 688.5 KB


Download documents

loading icon

View Responses

Responder name Type
dcal.pdf (PDF, 23.4 KB) Individual
STV.pdf (PDF, 52.6 KB) Individual
DMOL.pdf (PDF, 367.4 KB) Individual
acod.pdf (PDF, 82.3 KB) Individual
vlv.pdf (PDF, 140.0 KB) Individual