A little more than a year ago, my boss here at i asked if I fancied giving up editing this newspaper – a job I felt privileged to do - to join the London Live launch team. It would be the new television channel for the capital that would emerge from our group winning the London franchise auction, one of 19 awarded then.
I say “team”, but actually there was just Tim Kirkman, a clever, resourceful COO (and top bloke); an extraordinary woman named Jane Mote, a consultant who would become launch programming director; and then, soon after, Lorna Cole, who walked in off the street to demand a job, which turned into a commissioning executive role.
As London Live gets set to launch tomorrow, we are 70+ staff plus 30-odd freelancers. We’ve built two studios from scratch out of the editorial offices of this newspaper group in a complex building where even our landlords have landlords; we have put in galleries, mixing desks, cameras and miles of cabling via the wise guidance of our doughty technology director, Bryn Balcombe. We even have a robot. We’ve hired 35 journalists under our indefatigable head of news, Vikki Cook (ex-Sky), many of them multi-skillers who write, shoot, edit, file and send packages by themselves for our five-and-a-half hours of news and current affairs a day; and we hired outstanding commissioning, scheduling and digital staff.
Our creative head of programming, Jonathan Boseley (ex-Disney), used his 30+ meetings a week in the atrium to acquire outstanding existing favourites such as Misfits, The Shadow Line, Peep Show, Twenty Twelve and Spaced that will drive audiences to his team’s original commissions: shows like Food Junkies, F2 Kicks Off and Brothers With No Game. You may have read about them in Saturday’s paper.
Which is all well and good, but what’s it got to do with you, especially if you don’t live within the M25? Well, firstly, you can watch it anywhere in Britain streamed via londonlive.co.uk, but more importantly, you too will get a new local TV channel soon. If you live in Grimsby or Norwich you already have. The former Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt had the idea to introduce local television across Britain, partly in response to falling local newspaper sales and reduced local budgets at national broadcasters.
Your local station may not be anything like London Live of course, because London – like it or not – is increasingly unlike the rest of Britain. First there’s the obvious: scale. London Live is at least six times bigger than the next largest channel, and many times more so than most. Secondly, there’s the extraordinarily diverse cultural and commercial melting pot, evident on the capital’s streets, but less so on existing broadcasters.
We believe London Live will help kick-start a television revolution, bringing fresh talent from YouTube, London’s sub-cultures and elsewhere to our screens, be they TV, tablet, laptop or mobile. I’ve once again been privileged to be involved with such a talented group of people, both those you will see on-screen and the many you will never know behind it (hello, Anna Cronin). However, all that creativity and hard work will mean nothing if you don’t tune in. So, why not give it a go online or, if you are within the M25, on the EPG numbers below? Thank you.
Stefano Hatfield is editorial director of London Live
(London Live launches at 6.30pm Monday night on Freeview 8, Sky 117, Virgin 159, You View 8 and londonlive.co.uk)