29 January 2015

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Highfield reveals local TV plans for Johnston Press

Johnston Press chief executive Ashley Highfield says the company plans to launch a series of “mini ultra-local TV stations” for some of the small communities it serves.

Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland, he said that the issuing of journalists with smartphones would allow it to greatly increase the amount of video content on its websites over the next few years.

Ashley said this would then allow the publisher to set up local TV stations for areas which were not currently served by the BBC.

The interview with BBC Scotland business editor Douglas Fraser was broadcast on Saturday and looked at the challenges facing the newspaper industry.

Ashley said that journalists were now increasingly taking photos, shooting video and using social media like Twitter, rather than just writing stories.

He said: “We are going to create a lot more video content, a massive amount more in the next couple of years, really local video content.

“All of our journalists are being issued with smartphones, our websites will be full of really local good quality videos and I would like to see us create mini ultra-local TV stations for some of the smaller communities that aren’t served and shouldn’t be served by the BBC.”

Ashley also highlighted that the number of subscribers to Scottish daily The Scotsman had increased substantially over the last year to more than 25pc, partly because of the launch of a print and iPad app subscription package.

Also interviewed for the debate was Charles McGhee, a former editor of the Evening Times and The Herald, who said he believed “city-based daily newspapers” were unlikely to last much beyond the next five years.

Johnston Press is one of the regional publishers set to work in partnership with a new local TV station for Southampton, That’s Solent Ltd, which was awarded a licence in October.


  1. Jokingly Promised, Local

    Well, Ashley is the champion of ‘local’ after all!

    How about serving some of those smaller local communities with the daily evening newspapers they used to love? You know, the ones written by people who, if they didn’t live on patch, at least worked on it, and subbed by people who knew the difference between ‘that’ and ‘which’?

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  2. Old hack in me prime

    “Ashley said that journalists were now increasingly taking photos, shooting video and using social media like Twitter, rather than just writing stories.”
    Yup, that’s your problem!

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  3. ahoy

    And how is Mr Highfield going to convince his reporters to produce it? JP had a huge investment of video equipment for local papers 5 years ago, and we are still waiting for the staff in those offices to blow off the dust and actually use it!

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  4. Mr T

    The written, printed word. RIP

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  5. Scoop

    I love watching videos shot on ‘smartphones’. Sure everything will be well lit, synched commentary etc.

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  6. Bluestringer

    This could stretch the concept of “budget television” to its absolute apex.

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  7. Bluestringer

    You can’t just “do television” because someone has a few snaps and a bit of vid on a smartphone.

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  8. LookingForAWayOut

    ahoy – Same with Newsquest. our expensive video camera had a few early outings but hasn’t seen the light of day for about 3 years now.

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  9. Worthing business, Worthing

    JP have taken on a BBC internet man to run a newspaper business so really, what do you expect? In Worthing we used to expect our weekly visit from an ad rep. Now they don’t even answer the phones as they always seem to be “in a meeting”.

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  10. ahoy

    And whilst JP invested in expensive newsroom edit suites 5 years ago, it decided to make redundant the only people who were ever likely to use it; reporters and photographers. Deputy editors, subs and sports editors are never going to pick up the devices, so why waste your time? Oh yes, shareholders to impress.

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  11. Biller

    Worthing business, Worthing

    Do you still advertise each week?

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  12. lensman

    Good quality video’s on a smartphone? I’m sure ITN and BBC will be quaking in their boots.

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  13. Spanner

    Sold my JP shares at a profit a few months ago – phew !!

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  14. XJP

    I don’t entirely disagree with using smartphones for pics and video when reporters are on the scene of something major, and I think the industry has to accept that it must adapt to the way people want to read their news these days, ie often online, rather than banging the old print drum all the time.
    But when reporters are leaving in droves and sales are falling through the floor without the equivalent number of visitors to websites to replace them (and certainly not the same income stream), surely it’s time to think about what readers really want from their local papers rather than desperately jumping on a non-existent local TV bandwagon?

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  15. Digger, Manchester

    Welcome to Toy Town TV.

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