LONDON, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Russian oligarch Alexander Lebedev won a London-wide television franchise on Monday, beating four other applicants with a package including programming from the newsroom of his family-backed London Evening Standard newspaper.
The winning bid from ESTV (Evening Standard Television) pledges to deliver rolling live news at peak commuter times from the newspaper’s offices in west London.
British telecoms regulator Ofcom is offering licences for a number of local TV stations, typically covering a single city, using digital TV transmission. The London franchise, which offers an audience of up to 4 million people, is potentially the most lucrative.
ESTV said the schedule for its London Live channel would be driven by news and current affairs, drawing on the Lebedev’s newspaper resources, which also include The Independent title.
The channel will also include debates, programming made by London’s diverse communities, coverage of art, cultural and sporting events and entertainment shows.
Lebedev’s links with London date back to when he was a KGB officer based in the city in the late eighties. He made a fortune in banking after returning to Russia, where he owns assets ranging from newspapers to airline stakes.
He bought the Evening Standard in 2009.
His son Evgeny, who is chairman of the Evening Standard, tweeted that he was determined that group’s winning bid would “change London for good”.
The company said it expected to be ready to launch in September 2013, initially over the Internet and then by digital broadcasting, with a slot on the Freeview free-to-air platform.
It also intends to broadcast on the Virgin cable network and Sky satellite TV platform, as well as on mobile devices.
Ofcom has awarded 15 licences to date out of 21 planned for local broadcasting on digital terrestrial television.