Ofcom is set to proceed with the renewal of the current commercial TV licences for Channel 3 and Channel 5 after the recently appointed secretary of state for Culture, Media and Sport, Maria Miller, said she had no intention of blocking the process, although the current contracts maybe extended by one-year.
Miller, who succeeded Jeremy Hunt in September following a cabinet reshuffle, has written to Ofcom to say she did not intend to block the renewal of current Channel 3 licences, held by ITV, STV and UTV, allowing it to proceed with issuing new 10-year licences before the end of 2014.
Miller did however state that she may be willing to extend the licences of both Channel 3 and Channel 5 for a one-year period following a request by Ofcom, which has indicated that it maybe unable to finalise the contracts ahead of the current contract expires.
As a result, a consultation process over the renewal process will be held by Ofcom, over proposed amendments to current regional commitments, while an assessment of the financial terms be offered will also be carried out.
It is expected that these terms will be published next Summer.
John McCann, group CEO of UTV Media, said that the announcement provided clarify for the TV division.
"It is wonderful news for our staff and our business as it recognises the major role UTV plays in Northern Ireland life both as a broadcaster reflecting what’s happening onscreen and as a business providing employment for staff, contractors and the creative industries.
“As a successful regional broadcaster, we are totally committed to providing our audience with high quality public service programming in the future as we have for more than 50 years.
“The commitment of our staff has never been stronger and the quality of our regional output continues to enjoy the highest ratings in the whole of the ITV Network.”
Michael Wilson, managing director, UTV Television, added: “Today’s announcement recognises that Channel 3 remains as important to viewers today as it was when it was first licenced in 1954. It enables UTV to plan for the future and to continue to invest in the local economy in Northern Ireland.
“Earlier this year we signed a new agreement with ITV plc to ensure the ITV network arrangements were simplified and fit for the digital world in which we all now operate. Today’s announcement ensures UTV can plan ahead to invest in further technology to enable our content teams to deliver our programming on an increasing number of platforms.
“We look forward to engaging with Ofcom on the terms of our licence renewal and to providing our audience with the same high standards of news, current affairs and programming that reflects the people and issues of our region in the future.”
A spokesperson for STV, commented: "We are delighted that the Secretary of State, Maria Miller, has recommended the long-term renewal of the Channel 3 licences. STV remains committed to the delivery of high quality public service content and this has been recognised by the Secretary of State in reaching this decision. We look forward to engaging with Ofcom in the forthcoming consultation to conclude the re-licensing process."