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Jeremy Hunt MP: Why local TV is vital in the context of our localist agenda

Jeremy Hunt is Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

Since becoming Culture Secretary I have at times been a lone voice in arguing that broadcasting in this country is far too centralised. Most major cities in the US and Canada have 6 local TV stations or affiliates but it isn't just across the Atlantic. France has 40 local TV stations and Sweden has 80 - compared to the UK where we have just one in Manchester and none in major cities like London, Birmingham, Bristol and Leeds.

Here are three reasons why this is not just something "nice to have" but vital to our localist agenda:

1. It will transform local democracy
Think how the leadership debates transformed the General Election. Those of us knocking on doors noticed a startling change: cynicism and apathy were replaced by engagement and interest. We should jump at the chance to transform local democracy in the same way. It isn't just local politicians who could be held to account - locally-elected police chiefs, the new GP commissioning groups and any service delivered with a high degree of local control could be scrutinised properly in a way that simply isn't possible in five minutes of regional news.

2. It will regenerate local economies
Local TV will be a whole new sector of the creative industries, creating jobs throughout the country. But it isn't just the jobs directly created. If you start a new restaurant, tourist attraction or retail outlet in a big city, the ability to advertise locally is essential. But until now we have prevented local businesses using the most powerful medium there is. Local TV will change this, making it much easier for entrepreneurs to get businesses off the ground. Incidentally the need for a powerful new local advertising platform is one reason why I do not believe the BBC should deliver local TV.

3. To devolve power to local communities we also need to devolve control of local media
The media is incredibly important in shaping society. We will not succeed in our localist objectives if we do not also relax the centralised grip of the London media on the way local issues are portrayed. If you look at local TV affiliates in Boston, they also have national and international news - but read to you by someone in your city. The Big Society is about harnessing the energy, enthusiasm and ideas of individual citizens to achieve shared social purposes - the media needs to play its part.


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