The regulators’ deadline for a decision on the Birmingham local TV licence has been extended again – by a further six weeks.
The licence is up for grabs after the collapse of the city’s BLTV and Ofcom has extended the original November 3 cut-off point to December 15 to allow further consideration of the preferred bid put together by a consortium led by ex ATV presenter Mike Princ e.
A decision is likely before then, with the licence set to be re-advertised if the Prince project, which has already been rejected once, fails to meet Ofcom approval.
Meanwhile, outgoing Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards has suggested that it is “probable but not yet certain” that the regulator would eventually have to re-advertise the licence, which was originally granted to the ill-fated BLTV consortium exactly two years ago.
Mr Richards told the Culture, Media and Sport Committee earlier this week: “If we were to re-advertise Birmingham, I think we will have takers for the licence.”
The Ofcom boss told the Committee it could take up to four years to assess whether Cabinet Minister Jeremy Hunt’s vision for local television had been a success.
“Rather like the French Revolution, it’s too early to say,” he added.
He was quizzed on the matter by former Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw, who highlighted the collapse of BLTV in Birmingham and the ‘zero’ viewing figures of London Live.
“You see demand still there, you obviously do see problems in some areas, but you also see a very different range of kinds of providers,” said Mr Richards.
“We’ll only really know what that looks like and which, if any, are successful or don’t succeed over the course of three to four years.”
In September, Ofcom admitted it was ‘very unlikely’ that all Local Television stations would survive after BLTV collapsed into administration in August with debts of £170,000.
An Ofcom spokesman said: “Ofcom is now carrying out due diligence on a request from the administrator to transfer the licence, which must be done properly, while doing so as quickly as possible for viewers in Birmingham.
“In the meantime, Ofcom will extend, on an interim basis, the deadline in the licence for local TV to launch in Birmingham to allow a decision to be made.”
Administrators Duff and Phelps had warned that the Birmingham launch could be delayed ‘by many months’ and have asked Ofcom to reconsider the merits of the preferred bid.
Matt Ingram, partner at Duff and Phelps, said: “We have answered some further points that Ofcom have raised and we expect a decision to be made imminently.”