The team behind York’s bid to hold one of the first local TV licenses are bracing themselves for an imminent decision by the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS).
Ofcom plans to award up to 65 local TV licenses over the next two years to create a local television network, provisionally funded by a public subsidy of £25m, taken from the BBC licence fee.
York is believed to be in a strong position to receive “pilot” funding, with the city’s overall vision, infrastructure, and single, cohesive plan cited as key credentials. The bid was submitted in spring this year by a leadership group consisting of Science City York, City of York Council, and the city’s two universities. If successful, we could be tuning in to a dedicated local Freeview channel come the Summer, in time for the York 800 celebrations and coverage of the region’s contribution to the 2012 Olympics.
The York Channel is hoping to become part of the fabric of everyday local life and the leadership group believe that the channel needs to be a Social Enterprise to operate in the community’s best interests long into the future. Positioned as a “community channel”, the bid promises to help bring news to life and key issues to the fore, offering segments to which the public can directly contribute such as giving immediate reaction to breaking news and personal insight into the events which have impacted on their own lives.
The local TV network is said to be a welcome step towards safeguarding media plurality at a local level across the country, at a time when some experts are predicting that half of the 1,300 local and regional newspaper titles will be forced to close within five years.
At this early stage, it is envisaged that (in order to be commercially viable) there will be a maximum of two hours original local content per day, supported by programming shared across the national network. Broad areas of programming are likely to be news and current affairs, lifestyle, health matters, local history, business news and local events.
A consultation into the foundations of a sustainable business model for The York Channel, together with the potential network of content partners is currently being conducted by Claire Morrow, Chair at Welcome to Yorkshire and former Controller of News and Programmes at ITV Yorkshire.
As home to over 250 media arts companies and with 5,000 people taking courses in creative and digital media at any one time in the city, York is a hotbed of creative talent. Furthermore, the two universities and two further education colleges have invested more than £100m in media arts facilities and resources in York in the first decade of this century. The gem in this investment crown is the £24 million ‘production complex’ at University of York, comprising theatrical spaces, two high definition broadcast television studios, advanced post-production facilities and a green screen shooting stage.
The bid team are determined that a York television channel will exist in some form, whatever the decision by Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS). One option, if pilot funding is not awarded, could see it become an IPTV channel, accessible over the internet.
Professor Nicola Spence, Chief Executive of Science City York, has invited members of the local creative community to come forward with ideas for the channel. Spence told us: “We are working hard to develop the potential of local yorkchannel.tv. It’s important to the bid team that it is produced by the community, for the community, and we would therefore urge anybody interested in getting involved to get in touch with Science City York.”
To find out more about The York Channel proposal, visit www.yorkchannel.tv.