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‘Appetite for very local TV’ is the key to success, says editor

The editor of a hyper-local news site has said that local TV channels could succeed if they are distinctive enough.

Editor of Saddleworth News, Richard Jones, gave his views in a blog following culture secretary Jeremy Hunt’s recent visit to Manchester to speak about the plans, which will see local TV channels go live in 20 towns across the country in 2013. A list of 65 possible locations were announced two weeks ago, including Oldham, which neighbours Saddleworth.

Richard has previously produced a number of local news video bulletins in partnership with a local college and his could be one of the areas covered by the local TV channels if Oldham is one of the final 20. Some of the channels could be owed by regional newspaper companies.

In a blog on Richard Jones wrote that local TV could mean more jobs and potentially more revenue, two things which have been increasingly hard to come by.  But he questioned how it would best be delivered and whether it would be able to attract enough advertising.

He wrote: “Some channels which learn how to provide distinctive programmes on a tiny budget, probably using the existing facilities of university and college media departments, may succeed. Others, run along too-similar lines to traditional and costly news operations, will probably collapse in spectacular style, owing money all over the place

“Looking ahead, and contrary to all the scepticism, I predict Mr Hunt’s proposals will come into being. His enthusiasm for local TV is clear, and as long as he remains in his job I’ve no doubt he’ll make the project happen. Lots of existing media companies will be involved one way and another, along with new players.”

The planned stations would be available on digital terrestrial TV. The cities and towns which would get the stations are those with enough spectrum capacity from transmitters, leaving others without.

The culture secretary told the Manchester seminar that IPTV, which uses broadband to broadcast instead of digital TV, is still too far away. However, he acknowledged that in a decade or so, Greater Manchester might well have ten or more local TV channels delivered via IPTV.

He said the channels will lead to improved scrutiny of councils and other public bodies.

Added Richard: “I believe tapping into that appetite for very local TV will be crucial to the success of any operation, and that the on-demand capability and flexibility of IPTV will do a much better job of delivering that than DTT ever can.”