During a speech given to the Royal Television Society on 28 September 2010 the Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport, Jeremy Hunt, indicated that the Government is bringing forward secondary legislation under Chapter 5 of the Communications Act 2003 to remove cross-media ownership restrictions. The change would enable local media, such as newspapers, to own local radio and television networks and is part of the Government's plans to increase localisation of the media and of news coverage.
Under the new rules, local networks would also be able to affiliate with each other to reduce costs, to offer nationwide deals to advertisers and to make use of existing national networks to broadcast their own programming. The Government also intends to redefine 'public service broadcasting' to further emphasise local content and to clarify legislation which determines which public service broadcasters should be listed on the front page of electronic programme guides and their 'online equivalents'. This has led to some press speculation that Channel 4 and ITV may lose their top-billing if they do not grant sufficient exposure to local content. It is not yet determined to what extent the BBC would be involved, if at all, but BBC Director General Mark Thompson has indicated in the press that the BBC may offer some facilities and training to assist local media.
The Government has commissioned a report on the commercial viability of local broadcasting from Nicholas Shott, an investment banker at Lazards. The report is due to be completed later this year. In his preliminary findings Mr Shott urged caution by saying that local channels would not be sustainable on advertising revenue alone and more practical solutions towards local services may need to be explored. His proposals include providing local content by a variety of means, including broadband and Mr Hunt has also indicated that corporate sponsorship of local content may be considered.
The Government's full local media action plan is due to be published before the end of the year alongside Mr Shott's final report. Mr Hunt indicated that a new Communications Act is intended for introduction during the second half of the current parliament.