David Montgomery is doubling down on his attempt to bring a “new age of localisation” into local news with his TV network following the launch of Manchester TV. It follows his purchase of JPI Media, the UK’s third largest local newspaper group.
Montgomery is chairman of Local TV, which on Monday night launched its ninth channel – in Manchester.
The media boss said the launch of Manchester TV was the “culmination of a £6m investment in our mission to move the TV world from the dated model of centralisation to a new age of localisation with journalists working in the heart of their communities”.
Montgomery added that although he is keeping the Local TV and JPI Media businesses separate, they share a “common strategy – a move from centralisation to localisation of news, on TV, print and online”.
Montgomery has not yet spoken publicly about his plan for JPI Media, which he bought through his investment vehicle National World on New Year’s Eve, but said in a memo to staff that the company would be “restored as a local publishing business, locally managed with clear plans to grow the business by implementing a modern operating model”.
JPI group editor-in-chief Jeremy Clifford and several other group management staff have already left the business following Montgomery’s pledge to decentralise and put decision-making power back in the hands of local editors and commercial teams.
Montgomery’s Manchester TV launch forms part of his new Northern TV Network, with channels in Newcastle and Liverpool already up and running.
He said the network will “unashamedly champion the communities and the businesses of the north”.
Local TV now has nine channels, including in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Leeds and North Wales.
Its latest figures show year-on-year audience growth of 46% largely driven by Covid-19 coverage, with a monthly reach of 1.6m.
The Manchester channel will run 24/7, serving 1m households with local segments from 6-9am, 1- 2pm and 6-8pm.
The face of the channel will be Jessica Hay, a journalist poached from rival network That’s TV which also has a local station in Manchester and airs local news each evening at 6pm.
Hay said: “Manchester TV will deliver content that informs on issues and news that matter to local residents and communities and reflects the opinions of those areas and communities in relation to what’s happening and how it impacts them.
“We will carry a significant level of locally produced and broadcast content that is gathered to superserve the Greater Manchester audience across the day.
“We will work closely with public and private sector organisations to provide a broadcast platform upon which to reach a valuable, targeted audience with the important messages that serve the cities and communities.”
Manchester’s previous biggest local TV service, Channel M owned by parent company the Guardian Media Group, closed in 2012 although its on-air offering was greatly cut back two years earlier.
GMG Radio chief executive Stuart Taylor said at the time the Government had failed to provide a viable framework for local TV.
The local TV initiative saw the BBC provide funding support for stations for up to three years, giving the corporation the ability to use any stories broadcast by participating channels.