Can City TV survive?

I wasn’t too surprised to read this week that London Live, the city TV station for the capital, is in trouble and plans to get rid of one in three employees.

Local TV was introduced to the UK by Jeremy Hunt, the coalition government’s first Culture Secretary. The idea was to give each urban area in the country a “hyper local” TV station similar to those which operate in North America.  However, many of the franchises put on offer failed to attract even a single bidder and many of those stations which did get on air were forced to pull the plug fairly quickly.

The collapse of Birmingham’s City TV in September last year showed just how precarious these new stations are. Given the present economic circumstances, it can hardly come as a surprise that many local economies simply don’t generate enough advertising revenue to support a city TV operation.

In Liverpool, Bay TV only went on air just before Christmas so it’s perhaps a bit too early to pass judgement on it.  Bay TV benefits from considerable technical support from the BBC. Similarly, the local station in Glasgow  is operated by Scottish Television in partnership with my alma mater Glasgow Caledonian University.

Part of the problem with these local stations is that much of their programming seems to consist of “talking heads”, i.e. two people in a studio having a conversation. It hardly makes for riveting viewing and I often wonder if anyone is watching other than close friends and relatives of the participants.

I believe that there is a market for niche TV channels, but based on interests rather than geography.  Take a look at your TV guide and you’ll find channels dedicated to hobbies such as sport, music, cooking, travel and shopping.

Perhaps the last word on this should go to the advertising trade journal Campaign which has described local TV as vanity over sanity.


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