Ian Burrell: Launching today, London Live could change the face of broadcasting in this country

 

Launching a television channel is a big deal. When Channel 5 did it in 1997 they booked the Spice Girls to sing a Manfred Mann classic in reverse: “1-2-3-4-5”. Fifteen years earlier, Channel 4 had launched with a different form of Countdown – the quiz of that name, then hosted by Richard Whiteley and Carol Vorderman, which is still on air 32 years later.

London Live, which arrives today on Freeview's channel 8 (Sky channel 117 and Virgin Media 159), will debut at 6.30pm with the suitably titled London Go – its nightly entertainment news show, broadcast live from one of the multitude of gig and cabaret venues, cinemas and theatres around the capital.

London Live is an enormous opportunity to change the British television landscape, restoring faith in the medium among a generation that feels alienated by mainstream channels, and offering a new platform to the growing number of commercial brands that are making their own ambitious films and are seeking an audience.

Within the media village there is a tendency to view these moments with a cool reserve. "Local" television, say the old hands, has been tried before. The Guardian was obliged to close down its Channel M television experiment in Manchester in 2012 because it failed to find an audience. Channel One, a local information network for London and Bristol, was closed down by the publishers of the Daily Mail in 1998.

 

Like those ventures, London Live is aligned with a newspaper business (broadcaster ESTV is owned by Evgeny Lebedev, publisher of the London Evening Standard, The Independent and i). Because of this, I have had a close-up view of the station's evolution during the year since the licence was awarded. Studios have been built into our newsroom, a team of young presenters and video-journalists (VJs) have been hired, and a raft of smart programmes – from Channel 4's Peep Show and Misfits to the BBC's Twenty Twelve and The Shadow Line – have been acquired to underpin the schedule and help set a suitably youthful and irreverent tone.

But still, the argument goes, 16-to 34-year-old viewers – the declared target audience for London Live – have turned their backs on television. They are watching sitcoms, sports and entertainment films and music videos – but they're consuming them through the medium of YouTube.

London Live's strategy will be to take formats that work on Google's platform and polish them for television without losing their online energy. Football freestylers Billy Wingrove and Jeremy Lynch have already built a 260,000-subscriber base to the YouTube channel to showcase their "F2" tricks. Now their F2 Kicks Show has the chance to find a wider audience.

Other YouTube hits – including sitcoms Brothers With No Game, All About the McKenzies and The Adventures of T-Boy – were made with television as the ultimate goal but have first had to prove themselves by cutting through the dense forest of the internet to get noticed.

London Live can benefit from the recent hiatus in television that came with a collapse in confidence in the face of economic downturn and the internet revolution. Channels retrenched and commissioners stopped taking risks. Although the ad revenues are now starting to return and second-screen viewing with tablets and phones is helping scheduled television to live in harmony with the web, half a generation of talented programme-makers has been lost.

Channel 4 has found it harder to go out on a limb and the recently announced demise of BBC3 as a terrestrial network has called into question its commitment to young audiences. As producer Jimmy Mulville observed in Broadcast magazine last week, the BBC is in danger of "making itself irrelevant in 10 years' time" as it prioritises the high arts over youth programming.

All of this creates space for London Live. "I find it amazing that so much amazing talent has not got through the door at the mainstream channels despite spending so much time trying to get in," says Jane Mote, the channel's programme director.

Former professional DJ Lorna Cole has been hired to give the capital's music scene a television presence. "People say London has the best music scene in the world but there are hardly any music programmes on TV," says Stefano Hatfield, London Live's editorial director. "[The BBC's] Jools Holland [show] is not even filmed in London any more."

This player is used within article copy as first element. Default size is 630w but FC code uses it for 460w article layout.

Critics question whether young viewers will bother to seek out a new channel in the first place. But here London Live has a huge advantage over Channel M and Channel One, with its position on the first page of the Freeview programme guide. "It's like having a shop between Selfridges and Harrods – it's key real estate," says Jon O'Donnell, ESTV's commercial head.

Unlike previous "local" experiments, London Live will prioritise its online offering – meaning it can be watched beyond the M25. Such is the global status of the capital that there are commercial and editorial possibilities unavailable to other new local licence holders in places such as Norwich and Grimsby.

Commercial partners can show long-form advertising as local licensees are not subject to the seven-ad-minutes-per-hour restrictions on other channels. "Brands are spending an awful lot of money on creating high-quality content which they put on their YouTube channels or websites and it doesn't get many views," says O'Donnell. "We can give it new life."

A one-hour Shop London format, launching in the summer, is something new again – offering brands from all retail sectors the chance to promote their wares within a format that O'Donnell says will offer an "editorial sensibility".

Furthermore, the Government, which proposed this local television scheme, is anxious for it to succeed, as is the broadcasting regulator Ofcom.

As with any media adventure, there is the possibility that London Live will lose its way – and rivals will be quick to write it off. But no one should say that an opportunity was not there.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Guru Careers: Senior Account Manager / SAM

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: A Senior Account Manager / SAM is needed to join the ...

Guru Careers: Management Accountant

£27 - 35k + Bonus + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Management Accountant is needed ...

Guru Careers: Recruitment Resourcer / Recruitment Account Manager

£20 - 25k + Bonus: Guru Careers: Are you a Recruitment Consultant looking to m...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin (based in London)

£20000 - £25000 per annum + commission: SThree: Real Staffing's Pharmaceutical...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power