As part of a bid to realign the nation’s TV industry
29 09 2010
As part of a bid to realign the nation’s TV industry, UK Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt has criticised the UK’s broadcasting industry for being too centralised and has promised to promote more localised TV concept even though he accepts there are some challenges in making such a concept commercially viable.
Seen as many as the first shot in a war against the BBC in particular, Hunt argued that UK broadcasting was deeply, desperately centralised, going as far as to say that such centralisation was ‘shameless’. He said: “[Observers would be] astonished to find that three out of five programmes made by our public service broadcasters are produced in London. They will note that there is nothing but national news on most of the main channels, beamed shamelessly from the centre.”
Hunt scotched the idea that somehow the UK couldn’t sustain local TV. Pointing to not only the US but also to France, Sweden and Canada, Hunt said that it was probably no surprise that compared to those countries with advanced local news, in the UK communities were weaker, local identity less pronounced, and our local democracy less developed.
But creating such a culture would be a huge challenge, and for a variety of reasons: “We have established structures in this country that make it virtually impossible for local TV to thrive. But nowhere in the US, Canada, or anywhere else have I been able to find a broadcaster able to make 24-hour local content commercially viable – so we should be realistic: it is not likely to happen here either. And when it comes to advertising revenue, we are not helped by the fact that – unlike in France – we have not developed a reliable audience measurement system; one which allows local TV channels to make a full pitch to advertisers based on the number of households they reach and their audience demographic.”
Even though Hunt was blunt on what potential business models wouldn’t work—he said that the UK can’t rely on the cable penetration that is a major factor in bringing down costs in North America and Germany, nor pointedly, public subsidies as seen in France and Spain—he was less clear on what would.
Hunt warned the TV industry not to be to over reliant on advertising in their business model, advocating Internet-based solutions in order to achieve efficiencies. “The truth is that the whole of the sector must now face up to the impact of the internet, and make sure that their business models are not over-reliant on advertising revenues. We must grasp the opportunities provided by technology to develop new and innovative models that can really work.”
In painting some vision picture, , Hunt saw a landscape of local TV services broadcasting for as little as one hour a day, free to affiliate to one another – formally or informally – in a way that brings down costs, free to offer nationwide deals to national advertisers. He believes that they should be able to piggyback existing national networks – attracting new audiences and benefitting from inherited ones at the same time, and able to exploit new platform technologies such as the controversial YouView and mobile TV which has yet to take off in the UK.
As a first step, Hunt revealed that the Government would remove most of the local cross-media ownership regulations – paving the way for local newspaper and commercial radio groups to develop new business models that allow them to move freely from platform to platform.
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