Friday sees the launch of what its owners believe will be a disruptive revolution in news production and distribution; Fermanagh TV. Local company Under The Radar has been working on project for some time and is led by ex UTVers Ferghal McKinney and Trevor McBirney, who left when the current affairs department was downsized. The company is the one Bob Geldof was referring to in his interview with the FT this morning. The prize: an open funding pot for public service broadcasting. Although that is something that has to be decided on 16th June, Geldof seems pretty confident his ‘distributed network’ model will give him and his local partners an edge in the competition over one of the two oldest companies left in the commercial TV network:
Tendering out to the usual suspects just simply isn’t going to work. In the age of the internet, the notion of television itself is as archaic as the word wireless – even if that has been reinvented for the digital age. “It doesn’t mean anything will be exclusively online, but multiplatform news will be required. Also, I don’t think there is any way of doing this without working with local newspapers and those kind of agencies.
Geldof already has business to business digital channels like Vets TV and Teachers TV. Fermanagh TV will hook up with local newspapers like Slugger’s regional paper of the year the Impartial Reporter and the local district council to provide hyper local content. Slugger understands that it plans to spread this bottom up approach into other counties both in Northern Ireland and neighbouring counties in the Republic to build up a comprehensive local news service.
It’s worth having a look at Geldof’s Kent TV, for an idea of how it might work. Niche, certainly. But the quality seems high on a first recce. The election channel is public information oriented, rather than newsy.
Production is good. And it’s local. One of the reasons why the Republic’s press got their estimates of the FF performance so wrong was because they were not following the local news sufficiently well, which is where the parties where fighting their battles. That’s where the two big parties are fighting their European campaigns, and why the regional press remains vital.
Anything that reinforces that local voice in the public space has to be good. And its particularly beneficial if the competition causes in a significant rally in the quality of news and current affairs output from the incumbent licence holder.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty