Strange times beside the Humber. A week after Hull was named City of Culture, neighbouring Grimsby is making broadcasting history by becoming the first of the United Kingdom's new network of local television channels.
The "Grimsby Calling" moment will come at 5pm on Tuesday, when Estuary TV goes live with "On the Bench", a round-up of the Tuesday night news from Football Conference side Grimsby Town and other sports teams along the Humber.
After years of being lampooned by Steve Coogan and Armando Iannucci's portrayal of the hapless Alan Partridge, local broadcasting is set for a transformation. Estuary TV will be the first of 21 channels to launch before the end of next year, each with the benefit of being listed as Channel 8 on Freeview in England and Northern Ireland (and Channel 26 in Scotland and Wales).
The new offerings include Made in Cardiff, That's Oxford, Mustard TV (Norwich), Your TV (Manchester) and GTV (Glasgow). Ofcom, the broadcast regulator, has granted the latest licences to Cambridge Presents and the Scarborough-based Yorkshire Coast TV.
"There's a lot of momentum," said the Chair of the Local TV Network, Nigel Dacre, a former editor of ITV News. "This isn't just a single launch, like Channel 4 or Channel 5. This is a whole range of channels, each with their own teams and technical systems."
Lin Glover, director of Your TV, said conditions had improved since the demise of Manchester predecessor Channel M, which closed last year. "It's a completely different environment to when Channel M launched (in 2000)," she said. "It didn't have the benefit of decent coverage or a top ten position on the electronic programme guide. The technology available to us now is much cheaper."
The total audience reach of the Local TV Network will be 12m homes, a scale that allows the channels to each allocate one commercial break per hour for national advertising, which will be sold centrally.
The Grimsby network was to have been called "Lincolnshire Living" - but changed its name to "Estuary TV" when it realised the reach of its transmitter stretched across the Humber to Hull, which will be the UK's City of Culture in 2017. The added reach means the network has a potential audience of 270,000 homes. "It's a massive increase for us," said Lia Nici, the channel's executive producer.
The team behind the channel have experience in local broadcasting going back to 1998, which is why Grimsby was chosen by Ofcom to be the first station in the network to launch.
Based at the Grimsby Institute, a further and higher education college, Estuary TV has a wide-ranging schedule which covers local news, sport and politics. It has two news anchors, Emma Lingard and James Dunn, and a weekly chat show - "That Friday Show" - hosted by Martin Samuels and Helen Barley. "Hot Topic" allows local MPs and councillors to speak and be questioned on matters of local concern. The station wants the community to take an active role in its output. "We want to encourage more people to get involved," said Nici.
London Live, the new broadcast service for the capital, is of a much more ambitious scale than the other new channels and will launch in March across television, online, mobile, tablets, taxis and other outdoor media. It is being set up by the owner of The Independent and the London Evening Standard.
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