Supplementary memorandum submitted by
the Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport
When I appeared before the Select Committee
on 12 March, I said that I would write to you about the matter
of the length of validity of Restricted Service Licences (RSLs),
which was raised by Adrian Flook.
Restricted Service Licences for local television
services are granted by the Independent Television Commission
(ITC). Licences are available to cover particular establishments
or locations for specific events. They are available only in areas
where there are spare analogue frequencies. Under the provisions
of the Broadcasting Act 1996, it is for the Independent Television
Commission (ITC) to determine how to licence RSLs.
Originally, RSLs were valid for two years, but
in September 1999, the ITC announced that the length of licence
of RSLs would be extended to four years. This change was in response
to representations from the RSL community who had argued that
the two year extension period was too short. Towards the end of
the licence period licencees can seek renewal, subject to frequency
availability and whether there are any competing applicants. Any
further changes to the extension to the length of validity of
these licences is a matter for the ITC.
The Government recognises the value of local
television channels to viewers and in our White Paper: A New
Future for Communications, we considered the future role of
local television in the context of meeting the needs of local
communities. We acknowledge in the White Paper that all television
local restricted service licensees face a problem of spectrum
uncertainty and that the Government's spectrum management strategy
of giving priority to the roll out of digital terrestrial television
services, limits business confidence in Restricted Service Licence.
The White Paper affirms that a post switchover plan will be developed
to give RSL organisations a clearer indication of long term prospects
for local television services.
I hope this helps to clarify the position.
18 March 2002