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back to article BBC mulls seizing the wheel of Local TV

The BBC is considering a bid for control of the Local TV multiplex, putting the national broadcaster in line for £25m from the pockets of the, er, national broadcaster. Local TV is the UK coalition government's attempt to squeeze 20 small-area telly stations into the White Space gaps of unused radio spectrum in an effort to …

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Unsustainable

Makes sense. The entire local TV model is commercially unsustainable. The local radio industry has collapsed in recent years with stations closing, being merged with neighbours or in many cases being turned into semi-national networks.

The local TV stations may start off with lofty ambitions, but commercial reality will soon hit. Even a city like Manchester couldn't sustain Channel M, and the station on the Isle of Wight spent most of its time playing imported kids shows or terrible prints of 1930's movies.

If the Beeb can somehow get involved and use the resources at it's local radio stations to provide news and even facilities then it might stand a chance of working.

Of course Jezza "bullet-proof" Hunt hates the BBC with a passion so it won't happen. He'll hand it out to his local newspaper buddies and the entire thing will collapse into a national "Heart" sty;e network within 5 years.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Unsustainable

I'd put the local stations closing, merging and having semi-national networks down to Ofcom allowing it.

Of course one of the big radio groups (ironically with the name Global) won't give up until all their stations are just the same networked stuff 24 hours a day 7 days a week from London, maybe with a smidgin of 'local' news and travel.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Unsustainable

Well, Mr. Chill (I think you deserve this pimpin' new name),

You just said more or less exactly what I wanted to, despite harming an apostrophe, so saving me a lot of keyboard rattling. Well said, chapeau and hurumble.

..yes, of course the Hulture Secretary will fuck it up, it's what he does.

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Headmaster

Re: Unsustainable

Yes Ofcom have allowed it which has made it worse. But actually many of the smaller stations had been losing money hand over fist even in the "good" years. In this current economic climate nobody was going to tolerate it anymore. Previously what would happen was that someone would step in thinking they could turn a station around. Stations would change hands many times, but now the investor cash has dried up.

Prior to the last lot of consolidation I know of one radio group that had only 2 of its stations making good money. The rest were breaking even or losing money. That was in the "good" years.

The problem is going to be similar for TV stations but with higher fixed costs. Where's the money going to come from to fund it? There's an increasing number of people trying to all dip into the same pot of advertising money!

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WTF?

Conflict?

Isn't that a conflict of interest for the BBC? I thought the whole point was to make local tv channels not more offshoots (which it inevitably would be) of the the BBC.

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FAIL

"It's the same criteria that was used to award ITV channels in the UK, before the last Conservative government switched to a highest-bidder approach..."

Except they didn't, seeing as plenty of franchises were changed not on the basis of highest-bidder. In fact, it was a blind auction, where the winner was the one that came up with the best business plan - bidding the most didn't guarantee you the franchise (there was a few that didn't get it because their plans were judged to be not sound - most notably CPV-TV who bid far more than Carlton).

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1990 franchise round

It wasn't even anything as concrete as a "business plan" in 1990. It was highest bidder + "quality threshold". The quality threshold bit was only added as such a fuss was made about it being highest bidder only. It was all very vague. It had to be the highest bid that they thought was realistic. As such it made the entire thing rather fuzzy.

Interestingly Carlton had to go back cap in hand to the ITC to get a reduction in their licence fees a few years after winning. So they basically won because they overbid. Nobody outside the Tory government or Carlton at the time thought anyone but Thames should have won. Over 20 years operating the largest and most successful franchise didn't count for anything and it later turned out that the figures Thames submitted were spot on!

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Big Brother

Re: 1990 franchise round - why Thames lost

The "Death on the Rock" documentary:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_on_the_rock

< Big Maggie was watching you

[I had heard this theory a number of times before - Wikipedia link added as an easy reference for people wanting to know more - the loss of the franchise is mentioned]

Another high bidder that lost out in the 1990 round was Telewest's bid for the South West ITV franchise. Telewest had the highest bid of £16m (IIRC), but their business plan included relocating studios from Plymouth to Exeter which didn't go down so well. The franchise went to Westcountry who bid about the same £8m as the incumbent TSW had; but TSW lost out because they apparently hadn't pulled their weight on making programming for the ITV network.

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Unhappy

Re: 1990 franchise round - why Thames lost

Yes, Death on the Rock was probably a factor. As was the fact that Thames was the ITV networks hotbed of union activity that the company had been pretty ineffective at dealing with. While Maggie was full of admiration of the likes of Murdoch and TVAM at how they kicked the unions, she probably didn't feel the same way about Thames.

Also Carlton had wanted to buy Thames in the late 80's but had been blocked by the IBA. This displeased Thatcher as she saw it as interfering with the free market. This almost certainly led to the 1990 Broadcasting Act.

As Michael Green (head of Carlton) was mates with the Tories it was rumoured he was asked for input on the 1990 legislation.

And which rising star Tory was given a job in 1994 by Carlton? My my, if it isn't "Call Me Dave" Cameron who had previously been working in several government departments.

The more you dig around, the more that franchise award stinks. TSW lost fair and square, Thames were stitched up.

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FAIL

FailMux more like

"What shall we watch tonight guys?..."

"Well we could watch the X Factor on ITV1, some random period drama on BBC1 that looks quite good, The Wire on Sky Thingamabob, that really cool film about that cool thing that happened on FilmFour or we could shoot some terrorists on XBOX if none of that takes your fancy!"

"I know, lets watch Basingstoke TV!!! It's bound to be good! Order a pizza guys and settle down for a fun filled night of documentaries about very old people talking about how they didn't have a toilet in their house when they were young and Powerpoint slide shows listing local job vacancies and details of church-hall coffee mornings and jumble sales!"

Can't see it happening some how.

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Re: FailMux more like

A documentary on local TV?

You're dreaming! They're far to expensive. Only the BBC can afford big projects like that, and even then you usually end up teaming up with another broadcaster from the US or Canada.

By the time the bidding process has finished, any company involved with a local TV station will be so far in the red that they'll be desperate to rake in cash. Every program will have a premium rate angle. The news will have a topical premium rate text "quiz" after it. Maybe "guess how many people have been killed in Baghdad today?".

Local farming programs will have a "guess the weight of the hay we harvested this week?" premium text quiz.

Cookery programs will have a "guess how much sugar I will use in tonight's dessert?" premium text quiz...

And then, they'll be real-time interactive live quizzes where you, the viewer can participate! Wow!

Participate via a premium rate text quiz of course.

My town actually has a local radio station. By local I mean really local. A micro station if you like. The signal barely makes it the 4km from the town centre to where I live. I think I've tuned into it twice. Both times I was greeted by several seconds of dead air before anyone said anything. Try doing that on a "proper" station on the emergency drop in recording would have triggered!

So local TV is either going to be painfully amateur, or painfully commercial.

Both obvious failures.

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Re: FailMux more like

Portsmouth TV used to have a documentary like the one I described - Damn, they even had their own kids show and a Sci-fi drama - think Doctor Who but filmed on VHS camcorders in Fareham lol I am not joking either, I must sound like the bloke who cried wolf considering what I just said does sound like the sort of jokes I normally make but some quick googling has found actuall evidence!

http://www2.tv-ark.org.uk/otherchannels/portsmouthtv.html

http://www.theadventuresofstephenbrown.co.uk/

Actually to be honest, I quite liked watching that channel, it was "so bad its good" material at times.

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Re: FailMux more like

At one stage the Soton station only had one proper advert, for a Curry House. And remember, this was way before the recession! If it could only manage 1 advert in the good times.........

And yes, they also showed The Adventures Of Stephen Brown. It was bloody awful! And that's from someone who this very day ordered Zardoz on DVD.

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Anonymous Coward

Shouldn't that read Arqiva?

Obviously, megayachts and broadcasting infrastructure share some similarities, but there ain't much synergy in the business models

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Shouldn't that read Arqiva?

Yes. God damn it. I rather hastily 'checked' the spelling by popping it into Google, but the blasted thing autocorrected it and told me everything was fine - should have known, lesson learned.

C.

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And those of us that have to deal with Arqiva have a constant battle with the speel chekker to persuade it to accept the correct spuelllling.

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Anonymous Coward

Don't worry ... I once had a word processor program that was insistent that I was really writing about transexuals and not transputers!

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Gold badge

I'm just a sweet transvestite,

From Transputer,

Transylvania-a-a!

Now I see what Richard O'Brien was on about. So when the song continues:

Why don't you come up to the lab,

And see what's on the slab?

He was really talking about very early development of the iPad.

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Anonymous Coward

I once had a battle to get into oone of their buildings

due to the receptionist and I having wildly different interpretations of the pronunciation

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I once had a battle to get into oone of their buildings

Did you bellow in your best pirate voice:

"Arrr! Quiver!"

by any chance?

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They really don't want this to happen

Why use a system of bidding that collapsed the last network of local TV stations in to one big fat pointless national TV station...

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Stop

Re: They really don't want this to happen

Or... why not force all the franchise holders of the "Channel 3 licence" (i.e. ITV plc, STV plc and UTV Ltd) to put on local TV? Then we wouldn't have this faff of trying to reinvent the franchising of channels again.

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Do we really need more TV?

I'm sure that that white space can be put to better use.

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fishtank TV/Fireplace TV

Or other pointless stuff that's cheap to air.

"57 channels and nothing on"

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Peartree Productions

Alan Partridge a-likes will be delighted, North Norfolk Digital of the television world abound.

Personally I am no fan of local television or radio or newspapers, meaningful or useful content is too thin on the ground IMO.

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Thumb Up

Re: Peartree Productions

If one these channels brings us "Youth Hostleing With Chris Eubank" I will actually go out and buy a TV licence especially (I dont watch telly any more apart from iPlayer and downloads)

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Waste of time and money.

I live in Norwich and the local TV and BBC Radio Norfolk are terrible. We certainly don't need a Norwich TV channel.

I can just imagine loads of horrible cheap 'community' programs about the plight of local Pensioners/Unemployed/Youth/Drug Addicts/Market sellers etc. etc. Christ how dreary.

When I retune my Freeview box I always go through and delete about 40 channels I never watch. I guess this would be another.

Less is more.

I feel that maybe this kind of 'community' stuff could be better shown via some kind of regional part of iPlayer over the web.

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