The new race for Birmingham's long-awaited local TV licence faces a November 3 launch deadline – and previous bidders YourTV and Made Television have thrown their hats in the ring.
Both groups, who lost out to City TV in November 2012, have already indicated they will seek to re-apply for the licence following the collapse of the Debra Davis consortium.
But regulators Ofcom have ruled that the successful bidder will have to be up and running by November 3 – or the licence will be re-advertised.
Former BBC star Esther Rantzen's That's Media group is also thought to be in the frame for a licence, regarded as one of the most high-profile of the entire local TV network despite the City TV debacle.
Regulator Ofcom, in conjunction with administrator Duff & Phelps, are set to oversee a new bidding process which could see the licence transferred to a new operator if the November 3 deadline is met.
But any bid would be dependent on agreement from creditors – including investors and legal advisers – left out of pocket by the collapse of BLTV.
Former BRMB operations director Mike Owen, a director of YourTV Birmingham, confirmed the company would be bidding for the licence again – and said interest from partners and investors was already considerable.
But he warned that any would-be bidders were unlikely to be able to meet the November deadline originally imposed by Ofcom on BLTV to launch broadcasting in Birmingham.
He said: "The response from our partners and investors has been fantastic. My phone has been buzzing with people asking what they can do and if there is a chance we can rescue this licence for Birmingham.
"I am saying – yes – let's wait and see and we will respond to the opportunity that we wanted so much in the first place.
"We are very committed to the idea but I think a straightforward rescue bid would be almost impossible. You would have to get it out of administration and up and running by November, which would be impossible.
"It looks like we will have to go through some sort of application process again. We would be looking for it to be as cost-effective as possible. There are places that are not up to capacity. Birmingham City University have got fantastic studios down there which would be ideal for us."
Meanwhile, rival bidder Made Television has also confirmed it would be in the running for the licence.
Former Central TV news editor Peter Brookes – who helped spearhead the group's original Birmingham bid – said: "Yes, Made TV is certainly still interested in the licence. It is a question of how that is engineered and subject to Ofcom's approval."
YourTV, whose team includes Mike Owen, well-known Birmingham businessman John Crabtree, ex-Chiltern Radio finance director Stuart Reed, film and TV producer Professor Roger Shannon and former BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons as chairman, has already been granted two licences in Manchester and Blackpool/Preston.
Made TV has been awarded licences in Cardiff, Bristol, Newcastle, Leeds and Middlesbrough. The Cardiff and Bristol stations are due to launch in September followed in October by Leeds and Newcastle.
The Esther Rantzen That's Media group has been awarded six licences across the UK, including Oxford, the Solent, Basingstoke, Reading, Surrey and Salisbury.
An Ofcom spokesman said: "Ofcom awarded the local TV licence for Birmingham to BLTV in November 2012, following a thorough assessment of all applicants to run the service. Following the announcement that the company has gone into administration, Ofcom has spoken to the administrator and explained that our consent is required for any licence transfer.
"Ofcom must be satisfied that any new licensee has a sustainable business plan to run the Birmingham local TV channel. We would also look at the ability of any proposed new licence holder to launch the service by the November 3 deadline, which is a condition of the licence, and meet the programming commitments.
"If Ofcom believes that the proposed licensee does not meet these requirements, we may decide to re-advertise the licence."
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