BRISTOL could have its own dedicated television channel by 2013, ministers have confirmed.
The Government has confirmed that the city is one of 65 locations across the country to be considered for the move.Around 380,000 households will be served by the new service, which would initially be found on channel eight on a freeview box.
Bids will be opened to run the channel in the next few months, and broadcasting watchdog Ofcom will decide on an initial batch of 20 to be up and running by 2013.
Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the Evening Post that Bristol would definitely have its own channel by the end of the next Parliament in 2015, provided a sustainable businesses case is put forward.
He said: “This represents the biggest change in the broadcast landscape for decades.”
It is estimated that just over half of the UK’s population will be covered by one of the new channels, which will be based around existing transmitter locations.
This means some major cities, including Portsmouth and Ipswich, will miss out.
Bristol is one of only three locations in the south west to be included, along with Plymouth and Barnstaple.
Others across the country include Edinburgh, Manchester and Liverpool.
The new channels will only need to show one hour of original news content every day, Mr Hunt said, which would be far more local than the regional news currently found on the BBC and ITV.
Ministers sliced £40 milllion from the BBC’s licence fee grant to pay for the capital set-up costs of the project, which includes adapting the transmitters, but each project will have to be self-funding. Ministers believe each one would need to raise only £500,000 a year in advertising to cover their costs.
It is not yet known who will bid from each area, but Mr Hunt said this could be entrepreneurs, local organisations, universities or existing media companies.
The bidding process would be “a beauty contest, not an auction”, he said, meaning projects would be judged on their local value rather than cash alone.
He added: “I want people to be able to watch television that’s truly relevant to them, about what’s happening where they live and featuring the people they know.”
They will have to follow impartiality and decency rules when planning their broadcasts, he said, claiming local TV would help scrutinise two more coalition proposals, elected mayors and police commissioners, and increase turnout in local elections.
He admitted some areas may not show an interest in setting up a television channel. Aside from the technical costs of getting started, there will be no ongoing subsidy for the channels, although the BBC has set aside £25 million to pay for exclusive local content.
A Bristol TV channel was one of the 50 ideas to improve the city that were put forward by Bristol City Council’s place making director Mike Bennett last year.
Others included hosting an annual music festival and making more use of the city’s natural assets, like The Downs.