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Local Television

Volume 532: debated on Thursday 8 September 2011

4. What recent progress his Department has made on implementing the recommendations of the Shott review into local television; and if he will make a statement. (70591)

Last month I announced that 65 locations in the country could be pioneer locations for a new generation of local TV services, and we will be laying three orders before Parliament before Christmas to make that happen.

I thank the Secretary of State for his reply and for driving forward local TV with such belief; that is all credit to him. May I draw his attention to a bid for a local TV licence that is being put together in my constituency, which places the media and journalist facility at the university of Winchester and Southampton Solent university in Southampton at its heart? Does he agree that if local TV is to work this time around, and the next generation of Dimblebys is to be found, we must draw on the technical expertise within our universities and the students and what they have to offer?

I agree with my hon. Friend. He of course knows about this as a former journalist. Those at universities have been among the most enthusiastic people about local TV, not least at Birmingham City university, which has hosted two events on local TV in the past year. The reason is that they see this as an opportunity to found a new sector in the creative industries, which employ more than 50,000 people in the United States. That makes the opposition of the Labour party all the more extraordinary.

But the shadow Secretary of State wrote to me in July saying that this was a waste of ministerial time. I hope that he might review that position, because this is a big opportunity for jobs.

May I give the Secretary of State half a cheer for his proposals? The town of Mold in my constituency has been chosen as a potential hub, but it is the same town where a BBC TV and radio studio has closed, in part because of financial pressures. What guarantees can he give that the capital and revenue streams will be there to develop that network of local television services, and that any advertising will not diminish the ability of local print media to have such advertising and make them viable as well?

All the evidence from other countries shows that having local TV stations actually grows the local advertising markets. I am sure that the Flintshire Chronicle and The Leader will continue to thrive in Mold. I look forward to the right hon. Gentleman appearing on Mold TV, but for reasons of consistency we expect the shadow Culture Secretary to boycott his own local TV station.

Channel 7, a local TV station based in Immingham in my constituency, is, I believe, the sole surviving local station from the initial batch, and it has been a success due to forging its partnerships with institutions such as the Grimsby institute of further and higher education. People at Channel 7 have asked me to convey an invitation to one of the ministerial team to visit them and benefit from the success they have had. May I pass that invitation on and look forward to a visit?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that enticing offer. I travelled to Birmingham and Manchester, and tomorrow I am going to Belfast and Glasgow. I will certainly see whether I can put his constituency on the list as well.

In response to the Secretary of State’s plans for local TV in Wales, a senior BBC source was quoted in The Western Mail as saying that he is

“an advertisement for the devolution of every aspect of broadcasting policy to Wales without exception”.

Will he unburden himself and agree to such a sensible proposal?

Very unusually, this is an issue on which I find myself in disagreement with the BBC. I want to encourage local broadcasting, of course, but broadcasting should remain an issue for the national Government at Westminster.