A local TVchannel running on a budget would not be able to provide a rolling news channel type service as this would be too costly.
A more typical would be for the channel to produce three half-hour programming blocks per day: one at "breakfast", one at "lunchtime" and a final "evening" block. This block could either be produced as a live programme, or almost-live to save production costs.
Each half-hour block would then be electronically repeated over the following hours, providing a full-time service.
A typical schedule for the half-hour block might be:
30 seconds identify and titles
2.5 minutes local news headlines
7 minutes local news content
1 minute local weather and traffic information
4 minutes adverts
1 minute headline summary
9 minutes local features
1 minute local weather and traffic information
4 minutes adverts
The use of standard broadband and internet facilities, rather than the traditional broadcaster-friendly synchronous data services will probably be necessary.
A nationally co-ordinated technical order for the necessary hardware to support the local TV channels would considerably reduce capital and maintenance costs.
The co-location of a newsroom in an existing local newspaper office would also reduce costs (but not increase plurality). Some technical facilities as well as marketing and advertising sales may require cross-locality sharing for the smaller stations.
There are several technical challenges to getting the channels on air, much of which will be covered by the £25m-a-year from the BBC to cover the engineering costs of the local television stations.
For Freeview, a single-directional broadcast panel located half-way down a TV transmitter will broadcast a multiplex in QPSK mode, which will provide for a single local channel plus one guest channel. The maths (204 x 1 x 1/4 x 2/3 x 32/33) provides a multiplex capacity of around 8Mbps, about one-third of a "normal 64QAM" multiplex.
The local channel will appear in the electronic programme guide at position 6. As the local TV multiplexes use restricted frequencies it will not be possible for reception of more than one local TV service.
If the locality has a cable TV system, the local TV service can be delivered to the cable company (Virgin Media) where the channel can appear as 106.
In addition, satellite capacity will need to be found. It might be expected that lower bitrates will be used for local TV services cover smaller populations (as not happens with the BBC and ITV Channel Islands services, for example). Sky might require specific ministerial instructions to place the appropriate (based on the registered postcode) local TV at position 106 in the programme guide.
EPG slots 6 and 106
If Sky (or indeed Virgin or Freesat) are unwilling to relinquish control of the 106 slot, then channel 100 is unused on all systems at the moment. However, the law does seem to give the Minister the right to demand the slot - Communications Act 2003.
65 MPEG-2 streams on satellite would require 5 transponders if you crammed them in as tightly as the Freeview SDN multiplex is (11 streams in 24Mbit/s, 33.8Mbit/s available from a satellite transponder gives about 15 streams).
Unless, again, you're going to insist that potential viewers upgrade to DVB-S2, but I note that DVB-T was specified for the DTT service.
I suspect you'll be lucky to find 5 spare transponders
Local stations had better not want to use any music; PRS want a minimum of £16,500 for broadcast rights:
. You also have to pay PPL but I can't find a price on their website. That's only if broadcast in the UK, so those transponders are going to have to be found on Astra 2D or 1N UK beam - you could blow your whole budget on music licences if the channel ends up on a Europe-wide beam.
You could, as you say, get 16 streams statmuxed at 2.1Mbps each, it could also be possible to use this bitrate for the high-coverage station (over one million potential viewers: London, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Falkirk, Southampton), a little less for 400,000 to a million and much less for under 400,000.
Trevor Harris: 16 minutes an hour of adverts is the normal rate for a UK commercial channel.
The Freeviewpicturequality will be at normal bitrates, possibly higher because it probably isn't work doing a statmux on two channels. Cable will be good, the proposals for a limited quality service is just an exploration of the options for putting them on satellite.
I would have thought that the local programming created would be a VOD service, but the proposals on the table are for a set of local televisionservices based around the "it works on your existing television".
It is highly notable that local VOD services are notable by their not existence, or indeed their closure (ITV Local).
The point is, surely, that you have to make trade off between "national" multi-billion pound services that cover the UK and "local" services designed to let you know what's going on where you live.
For example, here is Brighton and Hove, there are 360,000 people who don't really give a toss about what happens today in Southampton or Portsmouth or Dover. You might watch the "regional news" on the BBC or ITV to hear about something dramatic or important, but you have to sit for half-an-hour to perhaps find a few minutes.
The local service will provide information that is about the locality.
Directing the money at London, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester and so forth in the first instance is not really going to add much for these places: they already have a "regional news hub" from two other broadcasters.
I run a citizen journalism project called NoozDesk and do a lot of work around community broadcasting in th UK and now breaking into the Australian market. I am giving a talk at the CBAA conferance in November and to community organisations all on the subject of citizen journalism.
I would really welcome the opportunity to talk to you on a range of matters connected with community broadcasting at some poiint.
Alan J: The idea would be that the people working would be multiskilled, as it normal for TV reporters. They would write, film and edit the content.
To say that the content would be "unwatchable" is a bit presumptuous - most TV news reports are created in this way, but yes, there is a trade off in terms of costs to provide for the required localism.
People always say they want "local" (rather than "regional") news when asked. As there is no money to throw at these projects then they will have to work within a tight budget.
The above schedule was working on an assumption that people will "dip in" to the local channel for no more than 30 minutes at a time, just a few times a day.
The local channels are not required to compete with the existing channels, they will be providing something new - local news, reportage and information.
Steve P: I think it's a "don't", but that's what I meant.
I think you're not in the "intended target area" for what is clearly a Liverpool service.
It might be possible to link together a second channel on the Liverpool mux with (there is room for two) with proposed "Mold", " Limavady" and "Bangor" services to provide a larger service area that might actually have enough population to be viable.
I think costs and service can be helped by local TV stations sharing features. I agree regional news is a dead loss on a veiwer and an advertiser standpoint. Local news is a different being. this might be successfull if allied to a strong local social presence,and with this in mind use of news gathered by all and sunder with cell phones. I have asked DCMS about what tech standards will apply (no resonse yet). my assumption is we are looking at SD quality which may preclude cell comntent.
David Hazel: The Ofcom document states that the service is SD and "will broadcast a multiplex in QPSK mode, which will provide for a single local channel plus one guest channel. The maths (204 x 1 x 1/4 x 2/3 x 32/33) provides a multiplex capacity of around 8Mbps" (from the article above.
It is perfectly possible to use 3G services to provide SD quality content back to the broadcasting centre, but not necessarily in real-time.
I think you may as well have these stations online so that you can tune in to any that you want. Otherwise you are bound to have the "I live in x and I can't get xtv but I get ytv" moaning again just like with DSO.