Two bidders for Belfast Local Television Licence announced

Two bidders have submitted applications to Ofcom to run a local television channel in Belfast: Northern Visions and Made in Belfast. If one of the candidates is successful, a local channel 8 would go live during 2013 on Freeview (as well as being carried on cable and satellite) and would cover Greater Belfast and Lisburn.

This morning, Ofcom announced the list of 51 applicants pitching for the 21 local digital television programme services (L-DTPS). While some licences appear to be quite competitively contested (Liverpool, London, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle), others only have a single bidder (Bristol and Grimbsy). Two areas – Plymouth and Swansea – received no applications. Made TV (formerly Element TV) have submitted applications for “Made in …” channels in 11 areas.

A further local channel covering Derry/Londonderry/Limavady may be advertised by Ofcom at a later date in a second round of licencing.

Back in 2002 Northern Visions won the local community licence for Greater Belfast and have been broadcasting NvTv since then on UHF channel 62 (799.276MHz) as well as online. After a major funding wobble earlier this year, that service will come off air as part of Digital Switchover in October.

David Hyndman from Northern Visions said:

With the public able to receive local television easily, we will be able to extend our programming and services for the community including offering a low-budget solution for small local businesses to advertise their services. In developing the bid it is our intention to strengthen the partnerships with the many cultural, community and educational organisations who work with Northern Visions and also seek partnerships with the commercial sector.

Made in Belfast logoMade in Belfast promises a local news editor, affordable advertising for local businesses as well as “a raft of new programmes dedicated to Belfast, concentrating on the city itself and not the region” and will create jobs for “journalists, producers, sales staff and technicians”.

Station manager Barbara McCann said:

Belfast has long been neglected by having hyper local coverage and we’re looking forward to creating content by the people of Belfast for the people of Belfast. We will provide news, sport, current affairs, cultural and entertainment programmes that go to the heart of this great city. This is the capital of Northern Ireland – let’s be proud of it.

Made in Belfast announced partners including: Downtown Radio (Bauer Media), Army NI, Belfast Metropolitan College, Bryson Charitable group, Maureen Coleman, Millar Grattan Media, Archer Advertising, Women’s Aid Federation NI, Waldovision, Public Achievement (WIMPS), MEMS, CM Film and Media Associates.

Unexpectedly, neither Ten Alps (Below the Radar and The Detail) nor Belfast Telegraph appear to be directly involved in either bid for the Belfast licence. Ten Alps were keen proponents of the previous government’s Independently Financed News Consortia.

Ofcom will shortly publish more details about the individual applications. A decision on licence awards is not expected until the autumn.

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  • Scáth Shéamais

    Don’t the “Made in…” applications defeat the purpose of local television if they’re based in London? Which includes the “Made in Belfast” station manager Barbara McCann.

    On another note, is there any word yet on the organisations and partners who will make up Northern Visions’ “consortium”? Is that something we’ve to wait for until Ofcom publishes the details?

  • Made in … also say

    This is not about joining up signals and simulcasting the same content across the country – all of our stations transmit entirely separately from each other. The only commonality between the stations is sharing technology costs and great ideas.

    so that may address your first question.

  • I find it very hard to see how truly local television channels can function in Ireland in any worthwhile manner. In other countries yes, it makes sense. The Londons, Berlins and New Yorks can easily support such stations, and do so with a professional set-up (and output). Population and commercial centres like Dublin or Belfast are more far more doubtful. In this part of the country we had the late, far from lamented City TV, which was noteworthy in its awfulness. Even community orientated channels like Dublin Community TV and Cork Community TV are pretty bad. In fact they are next to pointless and practically invisible to the general public. Has anyone ever heard of P5tv?

    Regional channels make some sort of sense, more bang for your buck, which is essentially what some of the channels over in the UK will be but can’t see it working out in the North. UTV without ITV would be what exactly? I suggested a while ago the creation of an online Irish language TV channel based in Dublin, with the possibility of being carried on cable, but its commercial viability would be open to question, even with part-funding from the likes of Conradh na Gaeilge or the Broadcast Fund.

    What is the criteria for the local channel in Belfast, will it receive money from the licence fee or community funding of some sort?

  • Barry the Blender

    Does anyone remember the joy’s of Derry’s local tv station Channel 9?

  • Ceist

    What pray tell is Army NI? Is it what it sounds like?

  • Framer

    So it’s the anarchists v. the feminists.

  • aquifer

    Great that we are spared a UTV bid.

    A webcam of Julian getting up in the morning would be a broadcast too far.

  • I think this is a great step forward – and hopefully similar licences will be issued throughout Ireland in the near future. I’ve known Northern Visions for years and they have produced high quality material in a context where they have been aiming at giving access to disadvantaged communities and marginalised elements in society to this technology. I hope they are awarded the licence in Belfast. I don’t know the other group in this case but whoever wins, it’s important that it’s local and at grassroots level – and surely Northern Visions has that in spades. What ASF suggests goes contrary to local access TV – if it’s about ‘professional set up and output’ alone, well then why not have another UTV or any number of the satellite channels which pollute our screens. But if its about true local content produced locally, I see that as a great advantage. An online TV station as Gaeilge would be a good idea but why not have one available digitally on Saor View? The production costs are the same…. the issue about broadcasting costs would have to be dealt with though. ITV or any of the other stations are not as hot as they think they are. They are commercial entities – what I think is needed is a community broadcaster and if local radio stations work, I don’t see why local TV stations shouldn’t work as well.