Can Leeds’ creative industries flourish with local TV?

All six bidders are subject to a beauty parade for DCMS and Ofcom although not all their indenties are known. Photo: ©knowyourleeds

Timi Korus’s musical career is on hold. The executive director at online TV station Leeds TV told knowyourleeds he has to concentrate on one thing: local television.

As one of 20 “pioneer” cities, the government’s next ‘big society’ project will come to Leeds later this year when licences for local TV stations are awarded in the summer.

“The government proposals will take local TV to the next level,” said Timi, “we’ve got lots of companies producing documentaries, dramas, all types of shows in Leeds, but this type of industry will create opportunities around the community it serves.

“So many people don’t know about what’s going on in Leeds, so want to give it exposure and tell people what this city is all about.”

But television is expensive. And it’s been widely commented on that local TV won’t be technically or financially viable.

To help get the scheme going, the BBC will hand over £40m from the Licence Fee towards the project. Up to £25m will pay for infrastructure and hardware. The rest will go towards buying stories from the local stations.

Timi said his proposal to the Department of Culture and Media and Sport is based under the message of “one Leeds, one city”.

“I want all the creative industries in Leeds working together so content will come from lots of organisations. If we just run repeats, people will tire of local TV. We won’t just be covering local news and maybe one other show because it’ll sink,” said Timi.

Timi wants all creative industries to contribute towards a local station.

“If Yorkshire Post and YEP are already covering local news, it makes no sense for Leeds TV to start doing the same thing and be a rival does it? It’ll be a waste of resources and a waste of money we could have invested somewhere else. So why don’t we try to do something different and make this work?”

He hopes by giving students opportunities and pooling Leeds’ creative industries together will offset the concerns that local TV alone cannot compete with the ITV/BBC.

What’s more of a concern is how much local advertising a local station can pick up when revenues are sharply down for the regional newspapers and commercial radio.

As Leeds Citizen blogged, Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post receive a bulk of their advertising revenue from the £250,000 which LCC uses to advertise council notices. He’s quick to counter that the Leeds station will also cover Dewsbury, Halifax, Huddersfield and Wakefield too.

“It’s quite expensive for businesses to advertise on mainstream television,” said Timi, “but on a local level it’s going to be far cheaper. Google can’t take every advertiser away from the media.

“There’s lots of opportunities to advertise directly to the community to the people who actually need it.”

Would be broadcasters for Leeds’ TV station are on a ‘beauty contest’, where they showcase themselves to DCMS and Ofcom who will only grant one licence per location.

As one of six bidders, Timi’s not alone. And as the decision time gets closer there will be questions about who should receive local TV licences and how equipped they’ll be to play a positive democratic role.

Although media companies have expressed interest in collaborating with other bidders, Timi said while he’s spoken with the Yorkshire Post, nothing is decided.

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