The Evening Standard has won the rights to broadcast a local TV channel in London. The Russian-owned newspaper’s ESTV proposal saw off four other bidders to be awarded the Ofcom licence for the region, and is now set to start broadcasting its London Live station on Freeview channel 8 from this autumn.
The new channel will broadcast for 18 hours a day and include coverage of news, current affairs, entertainment, weather and sport. It will have a breaking news focus and will draw on the resources of the print version of the Standard, as well as The Independent, which is also owned by the father-and-son team of Alexander and Evgeny Lebedev.
Among the promised regular programmes are The Big Debates, an hour-long daily investigation/discussion/campaign show; Launchpad, a showcase for film-makers from “across all ethnicity, disability and religious constituencies”; arts/sport strand London GO; and archive programming in London Re-Lived. To be launched in 2014/15 are lifestyle series London Lives, and London Launches, which will feature original drama and comedy.
The new channel will also be available via Virgin and Sky.
“Thrilled that Evening Standard has won bid for London TV,” Evgeny Lebedev tweeted following the announcement. “Hugely proud of our fantastic team. Determined this will change London for good.”
The Standard plans a £5m marketing campaign and also intends launching 33 “hyper-local” services for separate areas of London via internet TV.
Fifteen out of a total of 21 local licences have now been awarded by Ofcom, which invited bids in May 2012. The London licence, with a reach of around 4 million homes, is the largest, making it the most valuable TV licence in the UK since the launch of Channel 5 in March 1997.
In a statement, Ofcom said: “ESTV demonstrated the greatest understanding of London’s diverse communities by putting forward proposals which would allow representation of those communities whilst not excluding others as a result. ESTV’s proposals covered a significant range of subjects and would therefore meet the needs of local communities to the greatest extent.
“ESTV’s proposals also provided important opportunities for close local community involvement, taking into account, in particular, its proposals for IPTV services in each London borough which would be included in its programming commitments. ESTV was also in a particularly strong position to launch and maintain its proposed service, given its proposals for promoting and marketing the channel.”
In its original application, ESTV said it would “have the ability to rapidly develop a news and current affairs-led local London television service, delivering 100 per cent London content, which will engage and interact with London’s diverse audiences.”