Media: Switched on to cheap TV - The owners of the Daily Mail are getting into cable, and Robo-reporters are their secret weapon

IF YOU are looking for a symbol of the rapid way in which Britain's media is changing - with cable programming forging ahead - then look no further than Channel 4's former headquarters, in Charlotte Street, London.

A new Channel One logo beams from the foyer of the building where once Michael Grade was king. Inside it becomes quite clear that 60 Charlotte Street has become the focus of Associated Newspapers' pounds 40m ambitions (the money will be spent over three years) to break into television, and escape cross-media restrictions.

While Rupert Murdoch went overground in 1989 with Sky and the Astra satellite, his rival Lord Rothermere is going ambitiously underground, via cable.

It is a path also chosen by Mirror Group Newspapers, which has unveiled its plans for Live Television, a national 'info-tainment' cable service and a potential link- up with Scottish Television. Reuters announced last month that it plans to start a business news service for cable subscribers. Other financial news gatherers have similar plans.

Julian Aston, managing director of Channel One, says it is just the start: Associated Newspapers is holding talks with two other TV channels to see if they can be launched in the UK and accommodated in the Charlotte Street building. Channel One, which will begin broadcasts on 30 November, is supplying London's five main cable franchise operators (grouped together in an alliance called Interconnect) and their 285,000 subscribers with a 24-hour 'electronic newspaper'. The London area is the most heavily cabled in the country, with 40 per cent of the UK cable network.

Interconnect pools together all but one of the 22 franchises covering Greater London (only Westminster Cable, owned by BT, is outside the net), producing a potentially attractive, though currently tiny (in television terms) audience.

Channel One is modelling some formats on New York One, a lively city cable network, but it aims to have a conventional feel - as befits the owners of the Daily Mail and the London Evening Standard.

Following the New York lead, the network has divided the city into five zones to provide precise localised weather reports. Whether it helps to know that central London is, for example, one degree hotter than south London on any particular day remains to be seen.

One tangible sign of the news service is the presence of Michael Rosenblum, founder of Video News International, who is providing training in low-cost television journalism techniques for low-budget channels. Highly mobile young reporters will operate lightweight Sony cameras and edit the material on return to the office.

Some 30 journalists have been recruited and are undergoing the month-long training course. They will be the foot soldiers for the venture, receiving an average salary of about pounds 25,000.

The programming for Interconnect is being masterminded by Nick Pollard, a former ITN executive and editor of News at Ten, aided by Peter Wallace, another former ITN man, Peter as head of news. Barbara Gibbon, a former TV-am features editor who has joined Channel One in a similar capacity, says that her former boss Bruce Gyngell would understand the new climate.

The best transition is made by those who worked in radio or print and do not arrive with preconceived ideas about the old ways pf making television programmes.

Ms Gibbon plays a video report on the production of plastic mannequins made by the recruit Paul Lewis. We then watch a report about a wheelchair fashion show by Rachel Ellison, a former Mail on Sunday researcher and ex- freelancer. 'I hadn't touched a camera until two weeks ago,' Rachel says.

Jon Davey, head of cable at the Independent Television Commission, says: 'Cable programming has become an incredibly active field. Few of us would have thought a couple of years ago that cable systems might have capacity problems.'

He points out that cable and satellite operators benefit from a virtual free market. A simple licence is all that is required and can only 5be refused under Section 6 of the Broadcasting Act, which sets out basic protection of taste and decency. Cable is also a cheaper option - the annual rent for an Astra satellite transponder is pounds 5m.

It is also an alternative method of reaching British homes, without being part of the Sky multi- package deal, where recent newcomers to the UK such as Nickleodeon or QVC, the shopping channel, have ceded equity to Mr Murdoch. It also means not being dependent on Sky's subscription management system, the gateway to paid satellite services.

Only 707,000 UK homes have cable, though it is expected to rise to one million by Christmas. In comparison, there are three million homes with satellite, and Sky has embarked on an pounds 18m marketing campaign to add another million subscribers by Christmas.

All of this underlines Associated Newspapers' tough fight ahead. It owns the venture outright and will be paid a small carriage fee by the cable operators, but, inititially, it is likely to raise only small sums from advertising and sponsorship.

Mr Aston accepts that at first rewards will be small, with profits some four to five years away. 'We wouldn't be doing this if Lord Rothermere hadn't given this the strongest possible sanction. He sees it as a step on the superhighway.'

Nor is it clear where the synergy between print and television will actually come from. Channel One hopes to have assistance from the well-oiled news machines of the group's highly competitive newspapers. The promotion tape features, for example, several top Daily Mail writers and their potential programme slots - for example, Baz on the Raz with Baz Bamigboye, the paper's personable show-business writer. Mr Bamigboye, however, knew nothing about the programme.

The next part of the plan will be to extend the London formats to Newcastle, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds and Birmingham (hence a flurry of activity to scrutinise whether Live TV trespasses on Channel One's programme plans).

Mr Aston says Channel One will be supplying a core service to these areas - composed of general magazine, entertainment and show business features - after Easter. He is still working out how to add the local news. For all the ambitions of local newspapers to enter into the revolution, he favours partnerships with major news agencies because they would not be tempted to hold stories back. Old rivalries die hard.

(Photographs omitted)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Head of Marketing - London

£60000 - £85000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Interim Head of Marketing / Marketin...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Digital Project Manager

£25 - 30k: Guru Careers: A Digital Project Manager is needed to join an exciti...

Paid Search Analyst / PPC Analyst

£24 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Paid Search Analyst / PPC...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam