Where’s the audience for local TV?

Thank God I got round to finding out about local politics in Tower Hamlets. It’s  Dallas meets the Borgias with Oyster cards round here.

New readers wanting to catch up with a story of political double-crossing, conspiracy theories about religious fundamentalism,  suspicions of electoral fraud and  backroom deals in smokefree rooms can start here.  Those with a taste for a more analytical take on it all can pick it up here.

With such rich source material a local TV station broadcasting news about the area should be a hit – there’s a  news programme /soap opera combo just begging to be produced already.   But, even in Tower Hamlets, I fail to see  local TV of the type Jeremy Hunt was proposing on the Today programme this morning taking off.

As he explains it, the market has failed to give us a truly plural local media so he proposes to stimulate the market by relaxing ownership restrictions and allowing media companies to start hyper-local TV services to fill the gap.

He gave some examples of where local interest might be strong enough to make programming worthwhile.  It won’t fill a schedule, but, yes, football fans in Bolton may well want coverage of their team’s performance against Man Utd  (as long as ESPN/Sky/MUTV are prepared to share the rights – and Wanderers fans don’t already have access to the BBC, the internet or a newspaper).  People in Middlesborough may  want to see their Mayoral debates televised – a bit more of a stretch this one, but I can see the public interest argument for giving them the chance;  but it’s hardly going to be stripped through a week’s programming at 7pm – and if there isn’t a regular local channel for people to go to, how will they find it when it’s on?

It  may be a massive failure of imagination on my part, but I can’t see where the audience demand is for these services, or what the business model for a local TV service might be.  The  obvious conclusion is that creative use of the internet is the best way to achieve the  kind of services that Jeremy Hunt has in mind – a conclusion he seems to be reaching himself, if this speech is anything to go by.  Odd that he didn’t try to share this with us on Today.

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One response to “Where’s the audience for local TV?

  1. I guess my experience of local TV is in Florida where the Broadband/phone company runs a local TV service: Bay News 9. It can be quite compulsive viewing – traffic jam at Junction 24 on the I-275. No wait a minute…traffic is clearing!
    There are some clouds over Manatee County and some possible “sprinkles” between 6.15pm and 6.45pm over Tampa Bay.
    Raccoons are being “euthanised” – hold the front page!
    It can be strangely compulsive viewing!!!!

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