Last week Bay TV, the local TV station for the Liverpool area, announced that it had been placed in administration. The news hardly comes as a big surprise as the channel had been struggling to attract audiences and advertisers since launching in 2013. As I write this, a new owner has taken over the franchise and will rebrand the station as Made in Liverpool.
Liverpool is not the only city where the local TV channel has experienced hard times. London Live is reported to have stacked up annual losses of £6 million and earlier this year was given permission by Ofcom to reduce local original prime time programming to just one hour per day.
City TV channels have a troubled history in the UK. They were the brainchild of Jeremy Hunt, Culture Secretary in the Coalition Government, who wanted to create a British version of the metro area TV stations which are well established in the USA. Unfortunately for Hunt, the venture seemed troubled from the start; more Anchorman than Broadcast News.
The franchise for Birmingham was given to an outfit called City TV who had hoped to be the first UK station to broadcast, promising a start date of June 2013. Sadly City TV collapsed with debts of £170k before it got on air and the franchise eventually went to another operator.
There are some cities where the local station seems, for the time being at least, to be staying afloat. However they tend to be stations which are at owned or partly owned by major media groups. For example, the stations in both Glasgow and Edinburgh are owned by STV.
For better or worse, there doesn’t seem to be much of an appetite in the UK for hyper local TV news. With local newspaper circulations in decline and local radio stations (with the exception of most BBC stations) cutting back on local news, it leaves us with the internet as an increasingly important source of what’s happening in our own neighbourhoods.