In 2010, the UK government announced plans to award licensed television broadcasters with access to the broadcast airwaves spectrum. The intent behind this decision was to create local TV industries – not unlike the flourishing regional TV networks in the United States.
The BBC, as part of its license fee settlement agreement with the government, would contribute about £40 million toward this initiative - £25m for cost of infrastructure, and £15m to purchase content generated by local stations.
The Office of Communications (Ofcom), which was conferred with the authority to award licenses to local TV companies, extended invitations for entities interested in the license to submit their applications to become Local Digital Television Programme Services (L-DTPS) provider.
By August 2012, 57 companies submitted applications for 34 locations across the UK under Phase 1 of the project. For Norwich, there were only two applications – from Archant Limited and NR ONE. Ofcom subsequently announced on September 19 that Archant had been awarded the license - one of 19 in total.
A television broadcasting tower. Image courtesy of F Lamiot
After some preparatory work, Archant officially launched Mustard TV on 23 March 2014 – the second ever regional TV broadcaster in UK’s history. The new channel was on the air for five hours daily beginning from 5.30pm on Channel 8 on Freeview. After several months, the broadcast was transmitted over Virgin Media’s Channel 159.
Despite the novelty factor, regional appeal and free advertising in the form of news report, Mustard TV failed to generate profit. BBC’s decision to not renew the three-year, contractually-mandated purchase of local content from regional stations was the final metaphorical nail in the coffin, since stations were already struggling to attract advertisers.
Mustard TV’s chief executive officer, Jeff Henry, disclosed in an interview in 2015 that the station recorded a £657,000 loss – a very high figure for a subsidised business with a captive market.
As such, no one was surprised when Archant announced the sale of Mustard TV to That's TV Group on 17 August 2017, in exchange for a minority share (believed to be 10%) in That’s TV. Mustard TV officially ended its transmission on 31 August 2017.