The revolution began in Grimsby. Four months ago, 350,000 households in East Yorkshire and north Lincolnshire were the first in Britain to receive “contact”. Estuary TV was the first in the wave of new local television stations being launched around the country. Then it was Norwich: Mustard TV went on air last week to 160,000 dwellings in East Anglia. And at 6.30pm this Monday, the biggest of the 25 new local channels will begin broadcasting to 4 million homes within the M25 area: London Live, a 24- hour channel dedicated to the capital.
London Live is a (separate) sister company to this newspaper, so we at i have avidly watched progress this past year. One of its studios looks out over the large open-plan newsroom we share with The Independent, Independent on Sunday, Evening Standard and independent.co.uk. As media launches go it is innovative, bold, dangerous. Haven’t we been here before…?
Local telly stations have been tried previously – and many failed. But this time round, with much more favourable conditions, competition for licences has been fierce. The Government got behind the idea, finding the stations a prominent slot on Freeview (channel 8 in England and Northern Ireland, channel 26 in Scotland and Wales) and diverted millions in start- up funding from the licence fee. The barriers to launching a TV station, creating quality video content and interacting with an audience have been smashed by technological progress. Viewers can also watch programming online using their mobiles and tablets.
Over at London Live, experienced executives lead a young team refreshingly free of TV conventions. The atmosphere is experimental. Our chairman, Evgeny Lebedev, is due on Andrew Marr’s show tomorrow morning to discuss the launch. I wish all the new stations well, and hope their vision and daring are rewarded.