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Channel M closure sounds warning for local TV

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Channel M, the local television station serving homes in Manchester, has been shut down after 12 years on air, sounding a clear warning for the future of local TV.

Channel M started broadcasting in 2000, but has been operating on a drastically reduced basis since Guardian Media Group sold its regional newspapers in the North West to Trinity Mirror two years ago.

According to The Guardian, GMG has opted to close down the station entirely after deciding that the government's plans to foster a new generation of local TV services in the UK do not offer a viable enough future for Channel M.

GMG Radio chief executive Stuart Taylor, who oversaw Channel M for the last two years, said: "We've been in a holding pattern with Channel M for two years awaiting the outcome of the government's future plans for local TV.

"Sadly, we don't feel they provide us with the framework needed to grow Channel M into a profitable business that delivers the quality service viewers and advertisers expect from GMG.

"I want to thank Channel M controller John Furlong and his team for all they have done through this difficult period."

Channel M, which started life as Manchester Student Television and aired on Freeview, officially ceased broadcasting yesterday, with the loss of three jobs.

The closure is a blow for culture secretary Jeremy Hunt, who has spearheaded a big move to develop a new network of local TV stations across the UK.

Channel M shed around 30 staff in 2010, as its original programming was cut heavily and replaced by archive material and networked news. This came a year after 41 staff were axed as part of a cost cutting drive.

Ofcom is currently consulting on up to 20 new local stations being licenced with a view to starting operations by 2015. Services will be delivered over Freeview using a new overarching multiplex operator.

Manchester is among the UK towns and cities earmarked to get a dedicated local TV service, along with London, Brighton & Hove, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Cardiff, Belfast and Grimsby.

However, shadow culture secretary Helen Goodman has branded the scheme a "vanity project" for Hunt, and not worth spending around £120m of public money from the BBC licence fee in such tough economic times.

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