The Culture Secretary has decided to renew the licences for another 10 years, subject to negotiations. Ofcom will now begin discussions with the holders on the cost and terms.
The Channel 3 licences are held by ITV in England, Wales and The Channel Islands, STV in Scotland and UTV in Northern Ireland while the Channel 5 licence is held by Northern & Shell.
“Renewing the licences for Channel 3 and 5 will enable us to secure a strong and diverse future for public service broadcasting,” said Culture Secretary Maria Miller. “The UK is in a global race, and the TV programmes produced for 3 and 5 are exported around the world. Renewing the licences will ensure the holders can continue to invest in original UK content.”
The Culture Secretary has written to Ofcom asking it to negotiate the licences. The issues she wants looked at as part of that process are:
- The need to work with the licence holders to maintain, or even increase, the current level of public service requirements, such as the amount of news or original content.
- Under proposals advanced by ITV, viewers in the south of Scotland would not receive the same level of programming about Scotland as those in the northern and central parts of the country. The Culture Secretary said she wanted to see a way forward that addressed the concerns of viewers in the Border region.
At the Culture Secretary’s request, Northern & Shell has made a commitment for the first time on programmes for children on Channel 5. The channel has said it will broadcast at least 600 hours of UK-originated children’s programmes a year and this would comprise at least half of children’s programmes on the channel.
She also agreed that Ofcom should progress the potential separation of the Wales and West Channel 3 licence region.
The licences for Channel 3 and 5 expire on 31 December 2014. Ofcom is expected to complete the negotiations by then but Mrs Miller is prepared to extend the licences by a year if necessary.