David Cameron’s announcement today that Conservatives will give the country’s big cities the chance to vote for elected mayors is excellent for local democracy. But how will the new Mayors communicate to their electorate without proper ways of communicating with their electorate? Whilst local newspapers are incredibly important (think of the Evening Standard's role in the London Mayoral election) decent local television stations would enable would-be Mayors to communicate with much larger numbers of voters.
This is something we have always been uniquely bad at in Britain. Birmingham Alabama has a population of 230,000 and 8 local TV stations. Birmingham in the UK, four times the size, has none. London Ontario has a population of 355,000 and 2 local TV stations. Our London, with 22 times the population, has none.
It isn't just politics - local businesses too would benefit from the opportunity to reach consumers through TV advertising (which is one reason why any new stations should not be run by the BBC).
Both Ofcom and the government should take local TV much more seriously. A future Conservative government will do all we can to encourage the creation of local TV stations. We will ensure media ownership rules do not prevent local newspaper groups from investing in local television and urge Ofcom to be proactive in ensuring that spectrum allocations do not unwittingly prevent the emergence of a local TV sector.