Local Television in the North East

Posted: 13th February 2014

The region’s media professionals packed out Newcastle’s Live Theatre to hear about new plans for local television in the North East at a recent event organised by Royal Television Society and Northern Film & Media.

‘Countdown to Local TV’ saw Jamie Conway, chief executive of Made Television, reveal that he and his team were planning to launch a new service for Tyne and Wear this summer, followed in 2015 by a separate service for Teesside.

Interviewed by BBC Inside Out presenter Chris Jackson, Conway explained that the two North East licences would be exclusively local and would generate 30 hours of original content each week. His intentions are that the schedule will include: 

  • A dedicated local news service including twice nightly 30 minute programmes and regular news updates throughout the day
  • Current affairs programming that encourages civic debate, giving the local audience an unprecedented chance to get involved in local decision-making
  • Local magazine programming focusing on entertainment and culture that makes the channel the ‘go-to’ guide for what’s happening in and around the area
  • Local sports programming that provides a unique level of in-depth analysis and behind-the-scenes access

Recruitment for the Tyne and Wear service is already underway, and Conway encouraged programme makers to get in touch with him to talk about opportunities and commissioning ideas. A core production team of around 20 will be based in the David Puttnam Media Centre studios at Sunderland University, but that figure is expected to increase during busy production periods with freelancers and independent production staff.

Made TV’s business plan – which Conway admitted was based on ambitious local advertising targets and “modest but realistic programme budgets” – was challenged by some of the audience. John Myers, a former executive with Granada Media Group which sank millions into the Manchester-based Channel M, said: “Of course I wish you the best of luck. But I have to say that I’m skeptical about how this kind of venture can actually make any money.”

Conway said: “I don’t worry too much about what did and didn’t work in the past. I think the conditions are right for this approach to do well. If I’m wrong, I’ll admit it. But we are very confident this is going to work.”

He added that second screen viewing is a key part of the offer, with websites and interactive content supporting each of the local services. And he said some content would be shared across the local TV network with each station becoming a “centre of excellence” in producing a particular genre – such as entertainment, cookery or lifestyle formats.

Made TV won the Ofcom local television licences for Tyne & Wear, Teesside, Leeds, Cardiff and Bristol. It plans to be on air from Sunderland in early summer. Local TV in the UK is being supported with top-sliced BBC licence fee cash to cover set-up and infrastructure costs.

A recording of the event made by Spark Sunderland is available here

(Graeme Thompson, Chair, RTS North East and the Border Centre)

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