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GMG Mothballing Channel M, But Does An Opportunity Remain?

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The writing was on the wall for Channel M when Trinity Mirror bought GMG Regional Media from Guardian Media Group but left the Manchester metropolitan TV operator out of the deal.

Now the inevitable has happened and, after reviewing its options, GMG is effectively shutting the outfit. It’s cutting 29 of 33 staff and the channel will stop producing any new material.

After the GMG Regional Media sale – and, with it, MEN Media – Mancs might now feel doubly aggrieved by a GMG that, while exiting its Manchester heartland, is, via Guardian News & Media, opening three or more local news websites elsewhere and pursuing an international profile for Guardian.co.uk.

GMG says it will hang on to the Channel M brand and the Freeview multiplex on which it operates – this sounds like a short-term measure and the space may yet prove to have a degree of value, as the future of nations-and-regions news shakes out over the coming months through the government’s independently-funded news consortia proposal or alternative ideas…

Instead of the government’s idea, Conservatives appear to favour metropolitan, city-based TV-and-multimedia news enterprises. That could mean an opportunity for GMG’s Channel M empty shell in Manchester, but doesn’t seem to serve the pilot regions of Scotland, Wales and Borders/Tyne Tees (nor other UK nations and regions) well at all.

But the loss of Channel M – one of the UK’s only metropolitan TV networks – rather suggests that city-TV is uneconomical anyway. A similar portion of spectrum was last year auctioned in Cardiff but, for now, remains unused.

GMG’s full announcement follows…

“Following the announcement of the sale of GMG Regional Media to Trinity Mirror (LSE: TNI), GMG has been reviewing options for Channel M.

We have today informed staff that, despite interest from a number of parties, a viable offer for the station has not emerged.

Following the review of Channel M, we have reached the conclusion that the station is no longer sustainable in its current form. This is due to a number of factors, including the absence of a committed buyer, the loss of access to news from MEN Media, and the costs associated with the requirement to leave the Urbis building.

As a result, from this Friday the station will no longer broadcast evening magazine show Channel M Today, and will cease production of original news and features video. Channel M will remain on air, focusing in the short-term on a mixture of archive material, traffic and networked news.

We regret to announce that as a consequence of these changes the company proposes to reduce the number of people employed by Channel M from 33 to four. The company is in consultation with those affected.

GMG will remain the owner and operator of both Channel M and the associated Freeview multiplex business in Manchester.”

Disclosure: Our publisher ContentNext is a wholly owned subsidiary of Guardian News & Media.

One Response to “GMG Mothballing Channel M, But Does An Opportunity Remain?”

  1. drainblotter

    City TV in Freeview format will not be successful unless the population coverage in local areas is sufficient to support a local channel.
    Local TV to survive has to strictly control costs and that means modest studios and low transmission costs.

    One of the major problems over the past decade on local TV is the regulators Ofcom and there predecessors have subcontracted the coverage planning to a private company who is also the monopoly supplier of terrestrial TV transmission services who have a stranglehold on the terrestrial broadcast infrastructure and wish to retain there near 100% monopoly.

    Who can blame them.

    Local TV in the past have sought to seek transmission services elsewhere because they simply cannot afford the very high charges of the near monopoly supplier of transmission services.

    The monopoly supplier of transmission services decide what frequencies can be used,and the coverage and power of the TV transmitters of local TV.
    They have restricted in the past so much the population coverage of local TV the numbers simply didn’t add up. Local TV cannot be economically viable unless it serves a large enough population to cover costs and provide a sensible return to investors.

    The same tactics appear now to being used on the Freeview platform to restrict coverage.
    The reason in my view is because they can charge higher prices for there transmission charges than otherwise would be the case if the market was subject to healthy competition.

    Because they effectively regulate any new company that wishes to set up local television using there own transmission services on Freeview and because this gives local TV the possibility of offering multiple programs that then would compete with the monopoly supplier they seem to be doing everything possible to frustrate this.

    At worst these tactics are illegal and at best a severe conflict of interest arises because the monopoly supplier is effectively controlling and limiting the opportunity of local TV.

    The regulating body Ofcom needs to investigate this serious situation.