Fresh eyes

Will local TV services provide better PR opportunities?

will local tv services provide better pr opportunities
Andrew Taylor Senior PR & Comms Manager

Written by Andrew Taylor,
PR & Communications Director at Freshfield

Almost lost amid the coverage of the English riots last week was an announcement from culture secretary Jeremy Hunt on which towns and cities will be considered for new local television services.

It’s a move, he says, to provide people with local TV news and information “truly relevant to them and featuring the people they know”.

I for one applaud this concept, especially as Preston, Burnley and Lancaster are in the running for the first wave of licences.

Living in a Lancashire backwater, I often moan to anyone who will listen (which is no one) that regional TV news is too centred on the big city regions like Manchester and Liverpool. Amazingly, when they do interview people from my town, they never fail to find someone with one-tooth, who talks in the most indecipherable local dialect, and who is unable to string a complete sentence together, but that’s another story.

The lack of local TV news is understandable when you consider the ever-dwindling resources available to regional broadcasters, which means they often have to decline the opportunity to cover some really great stories.

From my experience, and that of many of my colleagues in PR, it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is to get a TV station to come and cover a news story these days.

Therefore, I would certainly welcome a local TV news service covering my area, and I’m sure that local authorities, emergency services, hospitals, businesses and charities would too. Not only would it provide more relevant local information, it would give these organisations better opportunities to engage with their community.

Local TV works in the US and Canada, where even relatively small towns and cities have their own news and entertainment TV channels, so there’s no reason it can’t work here.

The only stumbling block will be cost. It’s expected licence fee money will help cover some start-up costs, but advertising is likely to fund the services.

High running costs also mean local TV could end up being delivered through the internet, rather than through traditional transmission, which would be a great shame in my opinion.

Whichever way it ends up being delivered, it’ll be a significant step to rectifying the over-centralised service we have now. It also means my football team may get more TV coverage than the 30 seconds it currently gets at the end of Match of the Day.

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