What The Duck?

Bank Holiday Tuesdays are usually pretty boring affairs news wise. Public bodies are largely dormant, the most serious crime is often a city centre brawl and, frankly, nobody can be bothered with consuming hard facts.

But this Tuesday will be different, at least in the cosy bubble of “the media”, with the launch of Notts TV – the city’s first ever dedicated channel. There’s been a steady build up of awareness, with an eye catching outdoor advertising campaign and wholly positive stories in the Nottingham Post (which is a partner in the Notts TV consortium and will be selling its advertising).

Launch days are always exciting for those directly involved in any venture. I was lucky enough to be part of the team to bring the East Midlands’ first regional radio station on air. Radio 106 set out its stall to challenge what was already on the dial – a hybrid of the BBC’s speech heavy format and the wall wall music on other local stations. Those early ambitions were soon curtailed with the harsh reality of having to survive commercially. Lots of content requires lots of money; something our original owners Border TV didn’t have.

The funding model for Notts TV is slightly different, and arguably more stable than a stand alone commercial venture. It is a commercial service, but the model of local TV has been largely paid for by a slice of the BBC licence fee. The distribution of the channel – on Freeview and cable – is being paid for by Comux, another commercial consortium with its own funding.

But the real challenge will be filling airtime on what is still a limited budget. Initially, Notts TV will be on the air from 4pm til around 11pm each day. Within that is an ambitious 90 minutes of news every day; far more than either the BBC or ITV provide – and they’re regional services. It won’t be a question of whether there’s enough news around, but more of how the channel achieves that with a small team of six video journalists – who will also have to provide content for other shows.

The main organisational difference is that Notts TV isn’t entrenched in the institutional ways of traditional broadcast news. Some of my NUJ colleagues might baulk at the idea of every story being shot, presented and edited by a single person. No camera crews, no craft editors. But the reality is that technology like this has been used in other countries for years.

What’s more, the young and ambitious team at Notts TV have a blank canvas to do something different, to challenge the status quo. Presenters like Frances Finn and Becky Sheeran have plenty of experience in journalism, as does the launch director Jamie Brindle.

They and their colleagues probably have 18 months at best to make Notts TV a commercial success, able to stand on its own and prove its own place in a modern media landscape. Beyond that, it’s a complete unknown.

In the meantime, they should make Tuesday a launch to remember.

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