We need Local Television

We need Local Television


Brendan Murphy writes on the campaign for a local tier of public service television

For fifty years research for the television regulators has shown that viewers want a smaller-scale service because regional TV has been too big to do justice to local stories. The government’s answer has been to withdraw the obligations on the commercial regional broadcasters to provide regional programmes!

The opportunity to introduce the missing local tier of public service television begins NOW with commenting upon the TV regulator Ofcom’s report on local TV to be published early in 2006.

The only realistic option is to provide for a new, public service channel introduced during the switch from analogue to digital. The Campaign for Local TV believes that it should be free to air as a new public service with local channels run commercially, or by the community or with the support of local authorities.

Local TV is a new way to deliver local, social enterprise, community, educational and health services to involve communities and residents in the representation of key issues in their own terms. As France and Spain prepare to introduce 1000 local TV channels as they switch to digital – will the UK?

If you want Local TV in your area just email the word ‘yes’ to local.tv@virgin.net

A driving force for the campaign is the Institute of Local Television:

The Institute of Local Television researches and promotes small-scale television – local, community and neighbourhood TV. Its founder began making programmes on labour movement and trade union issues in the early 80s. The Institute has survived through the ups and downs of the community TV lobby in Britain and is experienced in the engineering and technical as well as the production side of local TV, giving training and advice to interested groups and individuals. The director of the Institute helped set-up and run Edinburgh Television and Channel 6 Dundee under the TV RSL (Restricted Services Licence) between 1999 and 2001. With John Libbey the Institute published Citizen Television, a local dimension to public service broadcasting (1993), Local Television Reviewed (1994) and Creating Local Television (1997). In 1998 School Press published Don Quixote’s Art & Television.

The Institute of Local Television (ILT) is part of an international network of community TV broadcasters – Open Channels for Europe – and a remit to keep UK projects and communications policy makers informed of developments and models of community TV provision in Europe and elsewhere.

The Institute is involved in media literacy provisions through writing on media access and through lobbying Ofcom and other key policy makers, and it carries on the media literacy debate both in the UK and internationally within the broader context of media democracy.

The Institute of Local Television also produces and distributes TV programmes to arts and community channels, some on behalf of an educational charity The Broadcasting Trust. The Institute’s annual interviews with authors’ appearing at the Edinburgh International Book Festival – ‘Writers’ Stories’ – is distributed on DVD through its educational website localtvonline.com. The Institute also produces a series on ‘Art in Scotland’ called Artists’ Stories which is currently in its third volume and sold through its website and through Tate Modern in London. A collection of 20 years’ of broadcast-related and community TV work has been reproduced from the archive of The Broadcasting Trust on the Community Media Association’s online commedia.showcase.com. Artists’ Stories is currently being circulated to galleries and libraries and broadcast on local TV stations in the UK and Europe.

The Institute of Local Television co-produced a number of videos through the Community Media Association’s ‘Commedia Millennium Awards’ scheme, providing mentoring and video production training for individuals whose projects were funded under the scheme. The Institute offers postgraduate work experience on community productions – notably interviews with authors at the annual Edinburgh International Book Festival and from 2004 with artists at the Edinburgh Arts Festival.

The Broadcasting Trust engages more directly in community production and training activity, and gives support to community TV projects trying to get off the ground. The Trust ran a local broadcasting trial from the Locus Centre in Aberfeldy, and is helping to set up a new TV station in Leith with the organisation Leith Community MediaWorks. . The Institute has developed a licence-exempt TV technology using the 2.4GHz band. ‘2.4TV’ is being evaluated for use in Winchester, Southwark, Doncaster and Merthyr Tydfil and in developing countries with the development think-tank GAMOS.

The Institute of Local Television and The Broadcasting Trust’s income comes through programmes sales, fees for lecturing, writing, research and production contracts and consultancy. The Institute and Trust have video production and editing equipment that are available on an ad hoc basis to not-for-profit and public service TV project. Both the Institute and Trust support small-scale TV research initiatives and are very active in on-line discussions and networks.

One member of staff works between the two organisations, which share facets of the same strategic objective. For the Institute the objective is ‘the recognition, promotion and provision of small-scale television as public service broadcasting’ and for the Trust it is ‘community training in TV production for community and local public service broadcasting.’

Both organisations are marketed by word of mouth and through their products – 2.4TV technologies, films, publications and research papers.

The Institute has worked on local TV development throughout Britain – notably on drafts for amendments to the 1995 Broadcasting Bill – and on a project for the Ministry of Hajj to enhance the safety of pilgrims to Mecca. The Institute is currently providing guidance on the use of a small-scale TV transmission equipment by trades unions in South Korea.

The Institute and the Trust work within a regulatory and academic framework, researching and delivering papers to conferences and academic peers in the UK and elsewhere.

In December 2003 the Institute delivered a paper in Berlin on media literacy and television democracy.

In March 2004 a paper on local television as public service broadcasting at ‘City TV: future perspectives’ in Brussels.

In November 2004 the Institute’s director was elected to the council of Open Channels for Europe.

Contact details
Dave Rushton
Institute of Local Television