While our Hereward Television station is ancillary to our training services, research shows that the Peterborough conurbation has no full-time television broadcasting presence within its region any more; ITV's Anglia television studios at Bretton have long since closed down.
The UK Government is keen on Local TV becoming part of the broadcasting landscape:
'I think they are very pioneering stations. I think they fill a gap. People are hungry for local news - the kind of attention to stories that wouldn't necessarily get covered on the regional news which spreads its net too widely perhaps.' Ed Vaizey MP, Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy, 2 October 2015
The UK Government's Department for Culture, Media and Sport issued a document in July 2011 entitled 'A new framework for local TV in the UK'. This publication makes clear that the objective for local TV is to 'broadcast targeted and relevant local content including news, current affairs and entertainment programmes'.
It also notes that 'The Government is not mandating ownership structures or business models. It will be for the market to respond to this framework and bid for the relevant licence or licences in support of business plans and having regard to anticipated revenues and costs.'
The document states: 'Local TV brings with it numerous economic, social, cultural and democratic benefits. It will be important in the wider localism agenda, holding institutions to account and increasing civic engagement at a local level. Local TV presents a valuable opportunity to put people in touch with what is happening in their local area and to demonstrate the difference that people's activities can make on the ground. For example, local TV stations could feature local volunteering opportunities or help to explain the work of community organisers, showcasing success and inspiring others to get involved.'
Under the subheading 'Market Barriers', the document notes: 'There are a number of reasons why local TV has not thrived in the UK. These are largely related to the structure of the UK's media market including barriers which prevent low-cost television business models from emerging and a lack of regulatory incentives against a tendency of television (and advertising revenues) becoming ever more centralised.'
In terms of content, the document is very specific: 'the services that Ofcom will licence:
- will be intended for reception only within a particular area or locality;
- will meet the needs of the area or locality;
- will broaden the range and number of television programmes available to people living or working in the locality; and
- will increase the number and range of the programmes either made in or relating to the area or locality.'
It should be reassuring that in terms of costs, the document states: 'The local TV services will be required to pay for all running costs associated with their local stations and acquiring content, i.e., staff, accommodation, equipment, etc. They will not have to pay for the multiplex infrastructure which delivers the channels to the Freeview platform for transmission.'
Further research shows that the existing models being applied to the execution of Local TV services in the UK have followed a traditional commercial route.
This is flawed, as the only previous supplier in this regard, ITV, has pulled back from regional services with different brand identities - for instance Central, Anglia, and Yorkshire in our region - due to such a model not being viable for them.
This demonstrates the need for a new business model, one developed for Hereward Television, which is based on the foundations which have been used in the Community Radio sector for the last decade.
Specifically, this means a very limited number of paid full-time and part-time employees, supported by members of the community who will benefit from the training, networking and creativity nurtured by the service.