“That’s the sort of “local” that these TV stations will be.”

Having scrapped plans for a syndicated Local TV network, last week the UK Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, announced a list of 65 areas across the UK identified by Ofcom as suitable for local TV services – including Belfast [and Lisburn], Londonderry, and Limavady [including parts of Ballymoney and Coleraine].  The list is expected to be further “narrowed down to about 20 contenders for the first set of licences before the end of the year.”  The local stations’ set-up costs will be subsidised from the BBC licence fee.

In The Observer, David Mitchell takes issue with the plan

To politicians, “local” is a powerful buzzword: local people, local services, local post offices, locally sourced produce – these are all phrases with positive connotations. “How can there be anything sinister in having more local things?” we think. The seductive rhetorical appeal of the Big Society is based on this – it disguises dereliction of duty as devolution of power.

The word seems less appetising when applied to politics and the media: local councils, local elections, local newspapers and local radio feel less buzzy. Just because I’m a metropolitan wanker doesn’t mean I’m wrong to associate those phrases, with apologies to the noble exceptions (I seem to remember Three Counties Radio had an entertaining afternoon in about 1989), with incompetence and crap.

That’s the sort of “local” that these TV stations will be. The rules under which they will operate sound awful but, Hunt must have been advised, are the only way they’ll have a chance of solvency: they’ll be allowed to broadcast as much advertising as they like as long as they provide an hour of local news a day. On the one hand, one to 23 is a horrendous programming to advertising ratio. But, on the other, it would be hard enough to produce a decent daily hour of news about Manchester, let alone Kidderminster or Salisbury. I was actually born in Salisbury but there’s no guarantee that something that exciting happens there every day.

Does anyone seriously believe that these stations would produce programmes worth watching or news that isn’t better delivered by the local press or the internet? Won’t they just put the former out of business, be rendered irrelevant by the latter, or both?

Read the whole thing.

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  • Well, there already is a TV station in Belfast, NVTV. All it needs is a Freeview channel. And it is better than the prediction of TV Kairdiff.

  • edgeoftheunion

    Yep Dave
    NVTV is great, but to be honest this whole thing is 10 years too late. the technology has moved on.

  • dodrade

    The North West already had Channel 9. which was hardly a success, mostly music videos and Sky News, although my mum was on their news programme once.

  • Well I live in the area of a town with a population of 12,000. The town has its own commercial radio. The next nearest town with roughly the same population also has its own station. Both have been running for about 5 years so appear to be solvent. As well as news and, mainly, music, they do call in shows to discuss local and national issues.

  • Advertising seems to work too. Anecdotally, a number of small shop owners have told me that their sales go up by as much as 30% when they run an ad on the local radio station.
    The motto of one of the iconic Department store founders in Canada, Timothy Eaton, was: Early to bed and early to rise and advertise and advertise. He built a country wide successful business which went defunct only a few years back when his grandchildren took their eyes off the ball.

  • Pete Baker

    Why are you wittering on about radio, Joe?

    The topic is local television stations.

  • Oops Pete, My misunderstanding; not paying attention. Completely different. Sorry. I will sit on the silly step for a bit. Feel free to delete my irrelevant comments.

  • dodrade [7.18] The channel 9 is still on the air but not with much of an audience, and little wonder. There was talk of a station being set up in Limavady, and their comedy output comes ready made if they do start up, with coverage of the council meetings providing all the laughs.

  • frankJG

    We have a local station where I live. Population is 120,000. The content is beyond crap, totally amateur and awful. The only good thing is sport. The local junior hockey team and inter county baseball team are covered live, every single game. Could this be translated into local coverage for Irish league, Rugby, hockey and GAA?

  • sweetdaddyg

    There are reasons the states have so many syndicated channels though, the UK, and NI in particular, are far too small for such a plan to have had any real merit.