Over the next few weeks I’m going to be writing a few short articles looking at where the box in our front rooms may be in a few years from now. I’ll start with Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s somewhat surprising announcement that he wants to make a Local TV Channel.
The idea of this channel is to have mostly national content, but for a few hours a day have some local programming depending on the area you’re in. Think how the BBC and ITV provide you with just your local news. This channel will work in the same way delivering just your local TV during the specified times.
And to be honest, I think that the idea of local TV is a good one (despite David Mitchell’s rant against it on ’10 o Clock Live’ last night!). There isn’t very much of it around (just the news and a few magazine shows) and what we do have isn’t brilliant. If there were independent, local stations we could get a higher quality of programming and shows we could relate to more.
Think about it. Unlike ITV and BBC who are just making this programming to satisfy their PSB remit (which is very obvious in ITV’s case), these stations would have to compete with the other channels commercially and so the emphasis would very much be on a good quality, original programming that keeps people coming back.
But this is essentially the problem. In a world where we are saturated with big ‘event’ shows (mostly the talent shows) and other well established bands, would a simple local TV station be able to make an impact. I fear not.
Jeremy Hunt wants his local TV channel to have a prominent space on the EPG (aka one of the first few numbers) but would it be able to with Freeview currently booked up to 8 and Sky even more full of channels. They’re hardly going to want to give up Sky One on Channel 106.
There’s also the physical problem of space in the spectrum (as in the amount of available local airspace). With the mobile network gobbling more and more of this for their internet services and digital radio/TV taking up the rest, will there be enough local spectrum for two nearby cities – say Nottingham and Leicester – to both have separate local content, or would they have to share?
I want the idea of Local TV to succeed (not just for my future career!) because I believe it can be great. It’s an idea thats worked abroad, most notably in the US, but whether it will work here is an entirely different matter.
All we know for certain is this is an idea Jeremy Hunt is very keen on and he wont let it die without a fight – should be interesting!