Daniel Cass, managing director of That’s TV in the That’s Solent studio.

Ofcom has announced the winning company to operate the licence to run the local television service for Carlisle on digital terrestrial TV.

That’s Carlisle Limited successfully applied for the licence, the company is part of the bigger That’s TV group who already run a number of operations in the South of England. (pictured above That’s Solent) Our reporter Dominic Knight gives his view on the new local services for ATV Today…

“As someone who has been involved with community/local television in Australia … a few words of advice for current and future local TV broadcasters in the UK. Engage with your audience – encourage volunteers both young and old to come into the studio to learn the skills required to work both behind and in front of the camera. Some will be looking for a career in the media; others will just find the experience a fun hobby. Local TV should be a platform for all, especially for voices that are ignored by the mainstream media, and having a slot on Freeview isn’t enough these days- a live feed via your website, video on demand services and interaction via social media sites such as Facebook is imperative.” – Darren Gray,

That's Local TV areaOfcom describe the ‘Local TV’ service as a new form of broadcasting, which has been enabled through legislation passed by the UK Parliament in 2011. The telly regulator is responsible for licensing these regional stations and currently has awarded 34 licences across the UK to a wide range of different organisations, from not-for-profit community ventures to new commercial partnerships between local newspapers, TV production companies and educational institutions. A rejected Labour plan, scrapped in 2010 by the Tories, would have seen a vastly better idea come to air.

It involved taking slots out of the ITV network schedule for regional content and handing over entire control for those slots to local television production companies. This would have allowed for regional television to thrive without the possibility of shareholders cutting back, or meddling by ITV to ‘ruin’ the local ratings which some critics have suggested ITV deliberately sought to do in the past in order to save money, and boost profits. While ITV may not have been happy with the proposals – having chopped away at their public service broadcasting obligations as much as they can – it certainly would have given the local shows better ratings, thus better budgets, thus better content.

Feature: Darren Gray visits That’s Solent

A total of eighteen local TV services are now on air, from Brighton and Hove to Cardiff, Belfast and Glasgow. Some are proving more successful than others. STV, the ITV broadcaster for Scotland, has launched two ‘City TV’ services for Glasgow and Edinburgh with classic STV programming proving the most popular, including serial Take The High Road pulling in the viewers. The newly produced content fairs generally less successfully. The same can be said of Big Centre TV in Birmingham which has relied on Midland favourite Crossroads to boost its profile and viewing figures. The specially made content however fails to reach a high standard visually or in the production quality. And again in the Capital, London Live has relied on old ITV shows such as drama London’s Burning to lure in viewers, who fail to be interested in sufficient numbers in the ‘new local content’. Some channels such as Made in Tyne and Wear rely entirely on new content, which at best can be described as abysmal. What isn’t new content is that old favourite: Teleshopping. The current crop of ‘That’s TV’ stations have, generally, offered a better service than some of their counterparts.

Ofcom’s Broadcasting Licencing Committee had two bids to run the Cumbria service.  Opting for That’s Cumbria thanks to its partnerships with the University of Cumbria, Carlisle College and Cumbrian Newspapers which the regulator believes will ‘broaden the range of programmes available in the area as well as increase the number and range of programmes made in or about the area’ as well as ‘strengthen the output of the service’.

“The Broadcasting Licencing Committee noted the potential risks represented within the business plan provided and it considered the advertising revenue forecasts to be quite ambitious when compared to the known performance of relevant existing media services. However the Broadcasting Licencing Committee was satisfied that the applicant would be able to deliver its Programming Commitments in the event that its forecasts were not obtained, and that in this event it would have the support of the wider That’s Media network as well as likely operational support from its local partners. On that basis, the BLC concluded that the applicant would be likely to be able to maintain the proposed service for the duration of the licence. Taking into account the above factors, the BLC awarded the licence to That’s Carlisle.” – Ofcom

With the limited budgets and limited talent being used, via media students and the like, these channels sadly will never be as successful as their American counterparts with rolling news and so forth. It may give the learners experience, but for the viewer television has to be vastly better than a ‘university station’ broadcasting to a wider audience.

Pictured: Top of page: Daniel Cass, managing director of That’s TV in the That’s Solent studio (Image by Darren Gray Management). Middle Right: The That’s TV broadcast area. (Courtesy of That’s TV Group.)

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