London Live had applied to Ofcom on 11 July to cut its commitment to peak time local content output from 3.5 hours to one hour, having launched on 31 March.
The hope was to attract more advertisers to its peak slots by attracting bigger audiences with national programming. But the regulator told the local TV operator today it must adhere to commitments it made when it secured the licence.
Ofcom reminded ESTV that it won the local TV broadcasting licence for the capital in competition with four other applicants.
Channel 4 and Channel 5 had been among those calling on Ofcom to reject the proposal to slash London Live’s programming, arguing it would set an "unwelcome precedent" that would "devalue" public service broadcasting.
In addition, two failed bidders for the TV licence – London8 and Channel 6 - threatened legal action if Ofcom grants London Live’s licence changes.
Responding to Ofcom’s decision, Tim Kirkman, chief operaing officer at London Live, said: "I am disappointed by this outcome as I believe the changes would have allowed us to produce an even better product for Londoners; we had no plans to reduce the volume of fresh local content or news and current affairs, just the times we broadcast it.
"Not being allowed these changes is not critical, but will continue to challenge us. However, the business is continuing to deliver, with nine consecutive weeks of audience growth, and we are now reaching over 10% of Londoners every week, with last week our 2nd best week so far – only very marginally behind our launch week".
The local TV channel – owned by ESTV, a subsidiary of Lebedev Holdings, is one of six local TV channels now on-air, while more than 10 stations are preparing for launch before February 2015.
Two years on from awarding the first licences (in Grimsby and Brighton), the channels now on-air are:
· Estuary TV, Grimsby (broadcasting from November 2013)
· Mustard TV, Norwich (broadcasting from March 2014)
· London Live, London (broadcasting from March 2014)
· Notts TV, Nottingham (broadcasting from May 2014)
· STV Glasgow, Glasgow (broadcasting from June 2014)
· Latest TV, Brighton & Hove (broadcasting from August 2014)
A second phase of licensing is now under way for new local TV channels in seven areas – Aberdeen, Ayr, Carlisle, Dundee, Forth Valley, Inverness and Stoke on Trent.
In awarding local TV licences, Ofcom conducts a thorough assessment of the bids to select the one that best meets the requirements set by Parliament, such as meeting the needs of the local area.
Bidders must demonstrate that they would be financially sustainable and provide evidence that funding is in place, or would be if their application was successful. When awarding a licence, Ofcom says it "carefully considers these factors and makes the best decision it can on the available evidence".
Earlier this summer, the holder of the Birmingham licence went into administration. The administrator is looking to transfer the licence to another party that could launch the service (which would require Ofcom’s consent). If this is not possible, Ofcom will re-advertise the licence in Birmingham.