The News: The days of bwana and his nine attendants draw to a close in Oxford

Early next year an entirely new kind of television will become available in Oxford. Called the Oxford Channel, it will be transmitted from an existing tower at Beckley, near the city, to a potential audience of 450,000 in Oxford and its sprawling suburbs. Viewers will not need to subscribe, or invest in a set-top box, or buy new aerials or remote controls. It will be available on Channel Six of residents' existing sets.

Although snappily advertised as "an Oxford First", the channel will not be quite the first of its kind. One local terrestrial station is already in operation in the Isle of Wight, offering a mixture of programming and text, supported by advertising and sponsorship. The services are authorised under the 1996 Broadcast Act by the Independent Television Commission under Restricted Service Licences (RSLs). As well as the Isle of Wight and Oxford channels, RSLs are in the pipeline for a mini-network of local stations in Scotland, for a student channel in Manchester, and one aimed at Asian viewers in Leicester, among others.

There is no requirement attached to an RSL for any particular range of programming: no need for schools broadcasts, or a "God slot", or news. The Oxford Channel, however, does propose to offer some news. It will be, says Deborah Kackler, one of the founders, "three-hour, rolling news," with news at the top of the hour updated periodically. In addition there will be a sports slot and "community features". Kackler and her husband, Thomas Harding, previously worked on a video magazine, based in Oxford, with a strong emphasis on "social justice and the environment".

So far, so good. The original design of independent television in Britain, based on some civil servant's vague memories of the Anglo-Saxon heptarchy (Wessex, Mercia, Anglia and the like), was a crazy model for media markets. Mountains of valuable, truly local, advertising revenue ("Get down to Tesco's, they're doing a great special on tinned ham today!") was going to waste. Even more damaging was the failure in the original architecture of ITV to cover local democracy.

If the new mini-channels succeed in providing an advertising service that wasn't there before, and in tapping revenue that wasn't being tapped before, that's great. But what about their news?

As Deborah Kackler explained it to me, the Oxford Channel will not at first be able to compete with the reporting on Central South, which has several journalists and cameras based in Abingdon, on the southern edge of the Oxford market, and covers an area roughly from Aylesbury to Hereford. International and perhaps national news will be bought from Reuters. So the new local TV stations will not be exposing local councils or other local institutions to much new transparency.

Experience elsewhere suggests that mini-TV may mean minimal investment in news. A new local station in Auckland, in New Zealand, where broadcasting licensing was deregulated recently, found the financial pressures so tough that one young journalist there was presenter, producer and reporter on the same show. She also did her own research and dashed down just before going on air to do her own make-up. It is a far cry from those days when, in the 1960s, I would process, bwana-like, to cover a story like the fall of Nkrumah in Ghana at the head of a team of eight or nine: lighting, cameraman, assistant, sound recordist, boomswinger, director, production assistant and researcher, with sometimes a "grips" thrown in to lug around our 30-odd metal boxes of lighting and other gear.

Those were the bad old days. But Auckland is not the only place where deregulation, financial pressures (or the drive to maximise profit) and new technology have created a new climate where "multi-skilling," as it is somewhat euphemistically known, can threaten journalistic values. Multi-skilling, with the same journalist operating camera and sound as well as doing interviews and "pieces to camera," then editing and writing commentary, is common in the United States and is making an appearance in Britain.

It is not just that it is unlikely that even the most-able and best-trained journalist will be as good as a specialist at operating a camera or editing videotape, even with the latest Avid digital editing gear. There are two less obvious but serious problems.

The first and most important is the likely primacy of process over content. Television journalists researching, shooting, writing and editing their own stories are not likely to have time to go into those stories in depth. They will have enough on their plate just to get the story on air at all.

Then there is the effect of one-man/woman crewing on the choice of story. Suppose you have to go on air at 7pm. If you have to edit, record and dub your own story, you will hardly be able to cover events breaking after, say, three o'clock. In practice, there will be a temptation to cover stories that are known about early in the day. And in practice, all too often, that means public relations stories: a launch, a press conference, or an "opportunity".

What's the answer? More regulation? That's not the way the world is going. The magic of the market? Perhaps mini-channels with innovative local reporting will drive out those that just rip "n" read; but perhaps they'll go broke first. In any case, two cheers for a brave new world in television, about to get its second at Oxford, home of lost causes.

Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
News
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
people
News
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Arts and Entertainment
A life-size sculpture by Nick Reynolds depicting singer Pete Doherty on a crucifix hangs in St Marylebone church
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Escalating tension: Tang Wei and Chris Hemsworth in ‘Blackhat’
filmReview: Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted hacker in Blackhat
Arts and Entertainment

Oscar voter speaks out

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars race for Best Picture will be the battle between Boyhood and Birdman

Oscars
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)
tvReview: Wolf Hall
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Meighan of Kasabian collects the Best Album Award
music
Arts and Entertainment
Best supporting stylist: the late L’Wren Scott dressed Nicole Kidman in 1997
film
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor)
tv occurred in the crucial final scene
Arts and Entertainment
Glasgow wanted to demolish its Red Road flats last year
architecture
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003
    Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

    Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

    Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

    Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
    Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

    Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

    Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
    New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

    Dinner through the decades

    A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
    Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

    Philippa Perry interview

    The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

    Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

    Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
    Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

    Harry Kane interview

    The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?