Location, Location, Location…

Stuart Buchanan, Junior Broadcast Executive at 4mediarelations, discusses the launch of London Live

Local TV and London  Live

Living in the 24-hour news culture that we do we have become accustomed to global events being delivered to us within an instant.

The Global Village, a term coined by Marshall McLuhan, aptly describes how the globe has become a single village of electric technology thanks to the instantaneous movement of information from every quarter to every point at the same time. The prospect of electronic media creating unified communities – politically and socially – is a hypothesis unto itself, but as far as media is concerned, the Global Village has significantly shaken up traditional outputs.

The death of local

The modern paradigm of news tickers and lengthy, extended coverage could lead some to believe that local news and events are now permanently on the back-burner of the news pressure-cooker. Local newspapers and radio stations have been dedicating untold amounts of manpower to local coverage for longer than most of us can remember, but television’s output has been slowly declining for years, often restricted to half-an-hour or less here and there throughout the day. The box has certainly succumbed to the forces of global media more than any other traditional media output.

But in May 2012 came the chance of revival of localism on the TV. In the UK, 21 regions were offered the chance to submit bids to broadcast local TV content in their area. Initially larger regional areas such as London, Manchester and Sheffield were chosen, which attracted 57 bids in total. Only Swansea and Plymouth received no bids. Following this, in March 2013, 30 more coverage areas were offered with ten further bids across seven regions.

Since the bidding wars, and after a great deal of hype, we now have a tangible example of whether this new era of local broadcast will thrive or die. Perhaps ironically, the rebirth of localism will begin in one of the most globally-connected regions of the world; London.

The resurgence of London

Some within the capital may have already switched onto channel eight and indulged in London Live’s selection of programming which ranges from food, politics and local theatre to stand-up comedy.

London Live, owned by the Evening Standard’s Evgeny Lebedev, is just the front-runner of new local television programmes and, in fact, isn’t even the first. Estuary TV has been broadcasting from Grimsby across Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire in some form since 1999.

Stefano Hatfield, editorial director up until very recently, said at the launch of the channel: “The biggest thing is that once people see it [London Live] they will wonder why they didn’t have it before. Cities like New York and Toronto have dedicated TV channels; many cities do. It is crazy that London hasn’t before now. There are so many stories in the capital and broadcasters like ITV and the BBC just don’t have the time to do them all properly.”

However, following a month of broadcast, reports are now emerging on their viewership and they don’t make pleasant reading. London’s metropolitan populous currently stands at just over eight million but London Live’s opening night numbers peaked at 59,000. In fact, the Broadcasters Audience Research Board reports that their breakfast news show, ‘Wake up London’, was played out to an audience so small it couldn’t be measured on eight separate occasions.

One swallow

But, as the old adage goes, one swallow does not make a summer, and time will be the true test of London Live’s (and any subsequent local TV outfit’s) drawing power. A quick straw poll around this office (based in Central London) found that only four of the ten of us had watched any of the channel’s output, whilst three didn’t even know it existed.

Live’s owners have promised to invest more than £15 million a year with a view to becoming profitable within three, but will that be enough? Further to that, how can other local TV channels hope to stand a chance without this mammoth kind of backing? In a Global Village, we must ponder whether localism has any role at all to play in future television media.

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