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Service of regional press makes local TV plans 'unnecessary' – media expert

The regional press has a “gift for innovation and flexibility” and satisfies local news consumers, making plans for local TV services from ITV and the BBC unnecessary, industry figures have heard.

Claire Enders, chief executive of media analysis firm Enders Analysis, told a Westminster Media Forum seminar that, in spite of a tough climate, the local press continued to meet the expectations of local communities both for local news and locally-driven information.

She said: “There is no market failure that the current players aren’t addressing.

“I think I first started hearing about the death of the regional newspaper in 1994 and 13 years later the medium is still doing pretty well.

She added that there was a “dramatic growth” in regional press websites, and there was still a vibrant picture in terms of local media consumption.

The seminar, at The Brit Oval, also heard of ITV plans for a local television network broadcast over broadband, and Andy Griffee, BBC English regions controller, revealed that the corporation’s nine-month pilot for their own ‘ultra-local’ TV service in the West Midlands had cost £3m.

He said plans for rolling out the 60 local TV services would be put to the BBC Trust in the autumn to see if it met the public value test, and any rollout would take at least four years.

But Mark Dodson, GMG Regional Media chief executive, said the plans should be put “quietly to sleep”.

Johnston Press chief executive Tim Bowdler also spoke against the plans, as he did at the Newstec conference in Brighton earlier this month.

He said: “We don’t have the resources that the BBC do, the BBC are quite capable of blowing us out of the water if they choose to devote their energy to local TV. Whether you think that’s good for local media, plurality and diversity, I would doubt.

“There isn’t the need, in my opinion, for public money to be spent on the provision of local TV – it might be nice to have, but there isn’t a need.” Do you have a story about the regional press?
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