Just over three years ago then Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt met with a good deal of skepticism when he announced plans for a largely privately-funded network of local TV stations to be launched across the UK.
For many the idea that communities which were barely supporting daily newspapers could suddenly provide enough advertising to keep a TV station going was laughable.
But in the coming weeks Local TV will become a reality across Britain as the first 19 stations go live in cities including London, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Newcastle.
Some £40m of BBC licence fee cash will help fund Local TV in the first three years – with £25m going on the broadcasting infrastructure and £5m a year being used to subsidise programming.
Considering the fact that London Live owner Evgeny Lebedev has committed to spending £15m a year for the first three years on his station alone, the level of subsidy to be shared across the board is tiny.
Available on Freeview Channel 8, Sky 117, Virgin 119 and via its own catch-up TV service – London Live is by far the most ambitious channel and plans to launch on 31 March.
London was the most hotly-contest franchise and the Lebedevs won Ofcom over with plans to provide 24-hours a day of programming seven days a week. This will include five and a half hours a day of news, and a great deal of new originally-commissioned comedy and entertainment.
There will be a morning news-based breakfast programme and an evening news show as well as hourly news updates.
London Live will be available to a potential audience of 9m people within the M25 and has the advantage of having a sister daily newspaper to help promote it. In January, the Evening Standard increased its free circulation to 900,000 a day, giving it a total readership well in excess of 2m people.
The new London station will employ up to 35 journalists, out of a total staff of 70, and its studios sit in the middle of the Evening Standard newsroom. It will also be able to draw on staff from the combined Standard and Independent editorial teams (although the Lebedevs have not denied reports that The Independent is up for sale).
Last year some 150 Standard and Independent journalists took screen tests and since then many have had broadcast journalism training. It is anticipated that newspaper staffers, such as Independent travel editor Simon Calder, will be contributors to London Live.
London Live plans to provide coverage from every one of the 32 London boroughs via its website. This will be by a combination of geo-tagging and archiving existing content and encouraging a network of video contributors to provide weekly content.
Writing on his blog editorial director Stefano Hatfield said London Live was "about capturing the energy, creativity, diversity and sheer excitement of living in the place voted top European city in a global poll earlier this week".
He said: "We want to be a platform for Londoners, representing the city from the streets up. We will discover, break and nurture fresh talent; reflect modern Londoners’ urban, knowing and humorous take on life, both in good times and bad, and be a forum for the issues we all really care about. Above all, we want to entertain you.”
Grimsby-based Estuary TV was the first channel to launch, in November, building on an existing community TV station which was launched by Grimsby Insitutute's media department in 2001.
Archant-owned Mustard TV, broadcasting across “greater Norwich”, is planning to go live on 8 March, and like London Live TV – it has plans to make use of the talents of newspaper journalists. Archant owns newspapers including the Norwich Evening News and Eastern Daily Press.
Bay TV' Liverpool station is due to launch in May and it has also won the licences to broadcast in Mold and Swansea in Wales. Bay TV is also expected to win the Bangor Licence in Wales as it is the sole bidder.
Bay TV Liverpool has 25 staff, including eight video journalists, and its schedule will include a daily three-hour breakfast news programme and half-hour bulletins at lunchtime and in the evening.
Asked whether he thinks local TV can be financially sustainable, Bay TV chief executive Chris Johnson said: “We are optimistic and encouraged at the feedback that we’ve had so far that there is a market there – epecially since we are going to be competitive on price with local radio and even local newspapers."
The first 19 UK local TV stations, all due to launch in the first half of this year are:
- Belfast: NvTv
- Birmingham: City TV Broadcasting
- Brighton & Hove: Latest TV
- Bristol: Made in Bristol
- Cardiff: Made in Cardiff
- Edinburgh: ETV
- Glasgow: GTV
- Grimsby: Lincolnshire Living
- London: London Live
- Leeds: Made in Leeds
- Liverpool: Bay TV Liverpool
- Manchester: YourTV Manchester
- Newcastle: Made in Tyne and Wear
- Norwich: Mustard
- Nottingham: Notts TV
- Oxford: That’s Oxford
- Preston: YourTV Blackpool & Preston
- Sheffield: SLTV/Sheffield Live
- Southampton: That’s Solent