Launching Local TV in England

Interesting piece in the U.K.’s Press Gazette about a plan to add dozens of local TV stations throughout England. Broadcasting officials in the U.K. say 10 or 12 cities are served adequately with local news–London, Birmingham, Newcastle–but many more on the second tier are not.

Former BBC director general Greg Dyke is working out a plan to launch local outlets to compete with the ITV network on the cheap.

Dyke was asked by the government to look into the costs and challenges of launching an affiliated network of stations.

The Press Gazette reports:

Dyke told an audience at York University last night that his Local Television Advisory Committee would tell Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt a network of up to 80 stations is possible with running costs of just £500,000 a year.

Hunt has already signalled his commitment to local TV and is expected to further outline his plans in an address to the Oxford Media Convention next Wednesday.

Hunt has already indicated that the BBC should provide £15m start-up costs plus £5m a year for local TV. This compares with the estimated £50m a year subsidy given by ITV to its regional news network under the current system.

The future of that regional ITV News network is in question after the current ITV licence expires in 2014.

Dyke said: “If local television is to come - and I think it will - there is a real danger that cities like York will miss out.

“Instead local television will be concentrated in the dozen or so cities which are already well served by regional television - the likes of Leeds, Birmingham, Newcastle and London rather than those that aren’t well served like Sheffield, Coventry, Sunderland, Exeter and of course York.”

The issue of advertising support, or lack thereof, was raised, to which Dyke responded:

“You could argue that people are willing to accept reduced quality if the content is more local.

“It could be argued that regional news has never been as good as national news in terms of quality because much less money is spent on it, but this hasn’t impacted the ratings. The same would apply to local versus regional.”

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.