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‘Ofcom must be flexible if local TV is to work’ – London Live COO on requesting changes to broadcast obligations

By Angela Haggerty | Reporter

July 25, 2014 | 4 min read

London Live has applied to Ofcom to cut its commitment to peak time local content output just months after its launch.

London Live: The channel is seeking to reduce its requirements

The local TV channel – owned by ESTV, a subsidiary of Lebedev Holdings, which is also the parent company of Independent Print, owner the Independent titles, and of the London Evening Standard – is asking the broadcast licence issuer to allow a reduction of peak time local programming from 3.5 hours to one hour.

However, the station's overall commitment to eight hours of local content per day remains unchanged and chief operating officer Tim Kirkman, who led the launch of the channel, told The Drum that the freeing up of peak time slots will allow the broadcaster to maximise advertising revenues through long form content.

Last week, Kirkman said that the traditional BARB system of TV audience measurement was underrepresenting local and minority TV channels, and hitting ad revenues because advertisers and media agencies currently negotiate deals based on BARB audience measurements.

On the latest development, Kirkman said: "BARB isn't working, therefore we have to find more efficient ways of raising revenue for the business, which could be long form content. These are the changes we need from Ofcom to allow us to do that.

"As a new business we must evolve until we've got a business model that makes sense, and this is about giving us the flexibility to make changes. This is about giving us the flexibility in our schedule and live commitment to try different things in different ways.

"This is a new space, and it's quite a challenging space. Ofcom must be flexible in their approach to allow these business models to evolve into sustainable businesses for local television in the future."

Ofcom is now seeking comment on the proposal after issuing a statutory notice.

“Ofcom has today published a statutory notice asking for representations from interested parties on changes to the local TV licence for London,” Ofcom said.

“This follows a request from ESTV Ltd – the provider of the London local television service London Live – to vary the programming commitments in its local television licence. The requested changes would include reductions to the hours of local content and changes to the types of programming provided.”

London Live launched in March this year after securing the local TV licence in 2011. It is currently staffed by 65 people, and eight people are responsible for producing three hours of live content every morning. The broadcaster has cut staffing costs by using robots to operate cameras instead of people.

The venture has so far been bankrolled by Evgeny and Alexander Lebedev.

ESI Media, the commercial department of the Independent and London Evening Standard, recently hired Metro MD Steve Auckland as CEO of its news brands and said his appointment would help take London Live “to the next stage”.

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