It had to come but even I was surprised by how quickly Local TV screamed for help. I’ve said it before and I will do so again, local TV is the idea of a political madman, funded by people with too much money. It is vanity over sanity.
Many years ago, I was on the board of Channel M which was part of GMG, a billion pound media empire that walked into local TV just when ITV was running out. They threw millions at it but it failed because it was ahead of its time and had a poor signal. You can debate the strategy and you might even argue about the programming ethos but Mark Dodson, the original visionary for this station was on the right track. However, the biggest killer was revenue. He was up against a big ITV company in Granada who had the agencies by the balls with share deals vastly reducing any national money for a start up like this. To be fair, the agencies couldn’t understand the appeal of it anyway. Not many did and even fewer could find it on their TV screens. Despite many promises by the government to resolve the signal issues, they didn’t and, in the end, GMG pulled the plug. The public didn’t care because they weren’t demanding more local TV anyway, they were already marching towards digital la la land. That was then, this is now and believe me, asking for local TV to work in this decade is like asking for the return of Long Wave. The world has moved on, the boat has sailed.
Jeremy Hunt then raised his idiotic head and led the charge from a political stance. He had a dream based on something he witnessed in America. That dream is fast turning into a nightmare and those with an ounce of common sense knew it wouldn’t work. For the record, it was never going to be about how good the programmes might be or even about the quality of the people involved, it was all about how much revenue they could attract. Very little as it happens but that didn’t stop people applying for licences and guess what, despite a number already awarded by OFCOM, many have still not launched. Birmingham is way behind its launch date, the North East is looking dodgy and many others are on life support. People who promised finance are waking up and wondering if they were drunk when they offered cash. Funding therefore is not that easy to find anymore. You might as well stand on Tower Bridge and throw £10 notes in the air, at least that might be fun.
If there is anyone on planet earth who still believes local TV is a good idea, the problems of London Live should put an end to it once and for all. After just four miserable months on the air they are at the regulators door begging for mercy, pleading to have their local programming hours reduced, although they aspire to do more when they can. Ha! Local TV will not work because the business case just does not stack up. No one is tuning in, no one wants to buy it. I feel for the staff but the stupidity of those who applied should not be rewarded. Revenue will always be as rare as a Lib-Dem voter!
The regulator needs to do the right thing here and that is to smile nicely, walk to the door marked ‘for emergencies only’ take out the shotgun and put the desperate dog down. It will be seen in years to come as an act of great kindness. And to think that a huge amount of public money has gone into this and Jeremy Hunt is now heading up health….be afraid people, be very afraid.