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Bailey hits out over regional TV news decision

The boss of Trinity Mirror has poured cold water on the government’s plans for ‘City TV’ claiming the idea is “not a sustainable business model.”

Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt yesterday announced he was scrapping Labour’s plans for regional TV news pilots in favour of a network of smaller stations that could be owned by local newspaper groups.

But despite promising to sweep away cross-media ownership rules in order to pave the way for the idea, the move has so far met with a cool response from the industry.

Trinity chief executive Sly Bailey, who turned down the chance to buy Manchester TV station Channel M when it was offered up as part of the GMG Regional Media deal in February, said the costs would be too high and the revenues too low to make it a viable business.

She said: “Given the Conservatives’ stance on Independently Funded News Consortia while in opposition, today’s announcement has not come as a surprise.

“However, as part of one of the successful IFNC bidding consortia we’re naturally disappointed that the government has called time on these plans.

“We believed that the IFNCs’ capacity to tap the talent and expertise of regional media companies to provide a viable alternative to the BBC’s local news made sense for everyone.

“We look forward to seeing the results of the independent commercial assessment of local television but it’s worth noting at this point that we don’t see ‘City TV’ as a viable proposition. Our research suggests that the costs are too high and the revenues too low to support a sustainable business model.”

Trinity was part of a consortium that had been awarded the contract for the proposed Tyne Tees/Border region pilot along with the Press Association, CN Group and independent TV production company Ten Alps.

The licence for the Scottish pilot was awarded to a consortium including regional publishers Johnston Press, Newsquest and DC Thomson, while local publisher NWN Media and Ulster TV teamed up to win the Welsh licence.

David Faulkner, managing director of NWN Media said: “The concept of the Independently Funded News Consortia offered a real way forward in boosting news provision on Channel 3 and multi-platform coverage across the whole of Wales.

“Wales Live – our partnership with UTV – saw this as an unrivalled opportunity to change the landscape of news provision in Wales where there is an urgent need for that change. We are disappointed with today’s statement that the news pilots will not proceed.”

The Newspaper Society has also expressed disappointment at the decision on IFNCs while welcoming the move on the relaxation of cross-media ownership rules.

Communications director Lynne Anderson said: “The NS has long campaigned for the liberation of cross media ownership rules at a local level. We believe that all local cross-media ownership rules, including the media public interest test, should be removed completely.

“Confirmation that the Government will not be going ahead with Independently Funded News Consortia pilots for regional TV news will be a disappointment for a number of regional newspaper groups.

“Trinity Mirror has already commented that local city TV is not regarded as a commercially viable proposition.”


Geordie (09/06/2010 08:50:51)
Perhaps it might be better if Ms Bailey concentrates on the state of the newspaper industry.

Long live papers (09/06/2010 10:32:26)
Wake up Geordie. It is precisely the situation in the newspaper industry which makes becoming a TV as well as print provider so attractive. It will protect jobs and advertising revenues giving local media companies the ability and resource to deliver independent local news on all platforms – including print – for many years to come.

Subb Yer Own Werk Frm Noww On (09/06/2010 10:51:00)
Ah, Ms Bailey – stick your fingers in your ears and point at the other boats, while the Trinity Mirror ships steadily goes down. “It’s all their fault! It’s all their fault!” Maybe investing, rather than slashing the workforce, might plug the increasingly wider hole allowing the water to spill in.

metman (10/06/2010 12:59:49)
Having working for the MEN group I totally agree with Ms Bailey’s comments. Youn only have to look at the money poured in to Channel M to see what a mistake that was and how it brought the rest of the GMWN group to its knees. I think Trinities decision not to buy Channel M speaks volums.