Local TV – is it really going to work?
All well and good, but the elephant in the room is how these services are funded, particularly in the current age of austerity. To be fair, banker Nicholas Shott, who was commissioned by Hunt to look into the matter, points out that advertising will not be enough to support these new channels. Suggestions of sponsorship (a la Barclays branding Boris’ bikes), a relaxation of local cross-media ownership and hosting of local channels by existing broadcasters are all put forward.
But two things strike me – firstly, the last 15 years has seen an increasing centralisation of TV (and currently, radio). I grew up in East Anglia with the iconic revolving silver foil knight of Anglia TV much in evidence. But the creation of a merged ITV means that local programming in the region is currently miniscule. The same is happening with local commercial radio, with Heart FM now merging its stations into regional, rather than county based studios.
Secondly, and most importantly, do people actually want local TV? When it comes to local news they get it through the radio or, increasingly through the internet – whether via existing newspaper websites or even hyperlocal services. Are people going to search the mass of digital stations for the hour a day of that Hunt suggests? I really doubt it – and pointing to the US as a role model is incredibly disingenuous. TV in is much more localised due to geographical size for a start.
Given the issues affecting the media landscape in the, focusing on local TV seems the equivalent of fiddling while Rome burns……
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