The group, known as ViewLeeds, is part of Andrew Dobson Broadcast Services based on Street Lane in Roundhay.
In its submission to the Department of Culture’s consultation process, it says it has plans to launch “pioneering” TV channels not just in Leeds but in Bradford, York, Harrogate and possibly Wharfedale, and that with the Yorkshire Post on board it could set “new standards in grass-roots news coverage”.
Johnston Press changed its mind?
As Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s pet plan for local commercial TV stations has gathered momentum it’s been difficult to imagine how any of the would-be operators in Leeds could realistically deliver a half-decent local news service without significant input from the only comprehensive news gathering operation in the city – the Yorkshire Post and its sister paper the Yorkshire Evening Post.
But the papers’ owners – the Johnston Press – have hardly been vocal supporters of Mr Hunt’s project. The reaction, for example, from chief exec John Fry to Mr Hunt’s initial plans – particularly the question of subsides for the TV stations – was less than sanguine.
Maybe they’ve had a change of heart. After all the papers’ print circulation has been falling steadily and there’s an urgent need for them to find new revenue streams by wholeheartedly embracing multi-media and digital.
So does this mean they’ve now decided to throw their hat in the ring?
Hmmmm. We’ll see.
Effective scrutiny of powers that be
Well, in terms of content there’s a laudable emphasis placed in the submission on the station being a “transparent window on local democracy”, a role which it says mainstream broadcasters (ITV and the BBC) are “unable or unwilling to perform”.
“Effective scrutiny of those who control our lives locally is simply not possible within the current restraints of regional news and current affairs programmes,” the submission says.
It’s not possible, of course, primarily because effective scrutiny is hugely labour-intensive.
And the only organisation with the capability to do it effectively in Leeds is? The Yorkshire Post and Evening Post.
“We are currently involved in serious negotiations with the region’s flagship newspaper, the Yorkshire Post, and believe that our combined journalistic expertise has the potential to set new standards in grass-roots news coverage and the totally coordinated, multi-platform delivery of a rich mix of local programme content,” the submission says.
Professionals, students, volunteers
According to the submission, ViewLeeds would be run by a “small core team of industry professionals, probably augmented by students on placements and possibly by ambitious willing volunteers”.
“There should be no room for the cynics or the get-rich-quick brigade, but plenty of room for those enthusiastic citizens with a passion to create an effective big society in their own back yard,” it says.
On the question of making the TV financially viable, ViewGroup says sponsorship and product placement would help balance the books “as will a slice of the ‘BBC’ support fund”.
That’s the £40m fund that’s being taken from the Licence Fee to help with the start-up costs and first three years of content of the 20 new local TVs announced this week by Mr Hunt.
“Most importantly, though, we are convinced there is a rich and previously untapped vein of revenue available from local businesses who have been waiting for the opportunity to sell their services and promote their businesses locally on the most powerful of advertising platforms.”
Debate only on LinkedIn
Rather confusingly, the promotion and publicity for the ViewLeeds local TV bid appears to be being handled by an affiliate organisation called Leeds Television, based at the Leeds Media Centre in Chapeltown.
It’s Leeds Television that is hosting the bid’s promo video and it’s @leedstelevision that has launched a debate on the future of local TV in Leeds following Mr Hunt’s announcement.
Unfortunately the debate’s not open to the online Leeds community as a whole, just to those “professionals” who are signed up to the LinkedIn networking site.
And finally, is it just me or wouldn’t it be good to see some evidence behind Mr Hunt’s claim that in these days of converged digital media there is “real demand” (he seems to have dropped his earlier “huge appetite”) for local news and current affairs delivered specifically through the relatively expensive and old-school medium of TV?