Virgin 'backtracks' on Channel 7 move

By Andrew Laughlin

Virgin Media has backtracked on its plans to withdraw carriage from local television broadcaster Channel 7, DS has learned.

It is understood that the proposed move was the result of the company's plans to increase bandwidth availability on its cable network by rationalising analogue transmissions.

On October 1 2009, the operator had scheduled to cut transmission from the head-end in the Grimsby region, which currently transmits the cable-exclusive Channel 7.
As the channel is not also being transmitted from one of Virgin Media's super head-ends, this would result in an end to it being broadcast on the company's cable network.

However, the United For Local Television (ULTV) group has publicly opposed the move to cut transmission of the UK's oldest local TV broadcaster, which currently reaches up to 140,000 homes in the north Lincolnshire area (Scunthorpe, Grimsby, Immingham and Cleethorpes).
According to independent research conducted in March by Trine Media, 63% of people who can receive Channel 7 watch it at least once a week, while the channel also has backing from politicians in the region.

ULTV Jaqui Devereux said: "Channel 7 has earned a reputation for innovation and excellence and has developed a business model based upon partnerships with local community organisations.

"It is one thing for Virgin Media to refuse to carry any new local TV services but quite another to terminate carriage of an existing established service. No other public service broadcaster in the UK faces such absurd threats to their existence.

"It is impossible for local TV to develop in such an uncertain environment and it is essential the government now recognise local TV as a public service and gives it the regulatory support it needs and deserves."
However, DS understands that Virgin Media has now contacted Channel 7 to advise that it has reversed the decision to withdraw carriage.

The company is thought to have offered a new contract to the broadcaster, with a small cost being levied for upgrading technical infrastructure for it to continue operating on the cable network.
A Virgin Media spokesperson has since confirmed that the company is "currently in discussion with Channel 7 with a view to keeping the channel on our network".