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Why let the apparent lack of a business model stand in the way of Jeremy Hunt’s vision for a first ever UK local TV ecosystem? An Oliver & O…

Jeremy Hunt
photo: The DCMS

Why let the apparent lack of a business model stand in the way of Jeremy Hunt’s vision for a first ever UK local TV ecosystem? An Oliver & Ohlbaum survey of 2,914 internet users shows a sizable proportion – about 52.5 percent across eight regions – are interested in such an idea.

Interestingly, the Welsh, whose Welsh-language S4C and English-language ITV (LSE: ITV) Wales are under pressure, are most excited about the idea.

And viewers seem to want such services to be as local as possible – as granular as the neighbourhood level, reporting on local crime, events, transport etc.

A country- or city-level services was least popular. That’s at odds with decision-makers’ nation-building agenda in regions like Wales, where politicians have favoured a national service to augment ITV Wales along the same lines as currently. The Labour government’s idea for a pilot Wales-level news consortium has been scrapped in favour of the coalition’s own local TV proposal.

Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt’s adviser Nicholas Shott has compiled a draft report warning there’s no real business case for a conventional metropolitan TV network in the mould of Channel M or even an ITV affiliate, as Hunt might have imagined. But Shott agrees with paidContent:UK that internet-TV services like YouView, Samsung@Internet TV and others offer opportunities for pushing out more cost-effective occasional video or text through TV widgets. This is now the way Hunt’s thinking.

YouView and Virgin Media (NSDQ: VMED), whose new boxes will offer VOD and internet “apps”, have each told paidContent:UK they are keen to support such services and are talking with interested organisations.

“Some of these markets that would watch local TV are too small to make any money,” O&O founder Mark Oliver told a briefing event on Wednesday.

Oliver & Ohlbaum’s survey also asked respondents’ thoughts on the UK government’s compulsion that the BBC take on the costs of S4C, BBC World Service and broadband roll-out.

Combined majorities of people said they do not think either BBC or public money should be spent on broadband or the World Service. Nearly half of Welsh respondents said S4C did not matter to them (a fifth of the populace speaks Welsh). Of the rest, a majority thought funding via the BBC would compromise independence. A minority thought S4C standards would increase as a result.

The BBC has also agreed to finance local TV news startups with £25 million from its license fee income.

Oliver also showed results indicating that, amongst BBC services, people say they get least value from Radio 5Live. Former Ofcom partner and ITN editor-in-chief Prof. Stewart Purvis told Wednesday’s event: “If S4C news, which is made by the BBC, was on this chart, it would fall off the bottom.”

  1. People may want local TV but I think what they believe it will look like (the BBC News at Ten in their town) and the actual format and production values will be very different. As you say the internet has to be the delivery mechanism, but someone still has to pay for it to be made on a sustainable basis. More in my blog http://measuresconsulting.wordpress.com/2010/09/28/local-tv-%E2%80%93-is-it-really-going-to-work/

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