Some of you have asked what I’ve actually been doing since handing over editorship of this fine newspaper to the talented Mr Duff. “Editorial director of London Live”: What does that actually mean?
London Live is one of the new ‘local’ television channels launching currently all over Britain, thanks to a Department of Culture, Media and Sport initiative to create a national network of 30 licences, 19 of which were awarded last year.
I write ‘local’, because as ever it is difficult to describe the capital that way. London Live is at least five times larger than the next biggest new channel. It will be available to more than 9 million viewers in 4 million homes within the transmission area, (roughly within the M25). London Live will be on Freeview 8, Sky 117 and Virgin 159, plus mobile devices from 31 March. Your own local channel will be launching on those same numbers (Scotland may be different) at various times over the next year. Norwich’s Mustard television launches the week before London Live, for example. However, you can stream our new channel anywhere in Britain on londonlive.co.uk.
I’m aware some of you outside the capital wouldn’t go near our channel with a bargepole, being convinced that London gets far too much attention as it is. Others will watch for the very same reason: You cannot ignore the capital’s growing influence, for better or worse.
That’s also the theme of an unmissable two-part series Mind The Gap: London vs The Rest, which begins tonight on BBC Two. Presented by the Today programme’s Evan Davis, it explores why the capital is so commercially dominant over the rest of the country; how good or bad this is for Britain; and what, if anything, the rest of the country can do about it?
Davis argues London now generates more than a fifth of Britain’s income and is pulling away from the rest of the country, much of which is still struggling. Obviously, it is a magnet for new talent and money both the best and brightest Britain produces and – increasingly – foreign investment.
Its success is not just an issue for the regions, but for Londoners too, as the property market soars out of the reach of so many – even those with ‘decent’ jobs. ‘Poor’ has become a painfully relative term, with poorer people being driven out of not just the affluent central areas, but places like Battersea, Elephant and Castle and the East End too.
This presents a huge dilemma for our political leaders: particularly concerning infrastructure investment. Do they focus on London projects like Crossrail, or spread the investment around despite the greater potential for continuing growth? The recent storm devastation of the South West train track at Dawlish brought this into stark relief.
I’m glad I don’t have to resolve this knotty problem. I love living and working in London, but know deep down it would be healthier for Britain if Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Birmingham, let alone Glasgow and Cardiff had a greater share of Britain’s economy in the way Germany is not so dependent on Berlin. Tune in tonight and let me know what you think. And look out for your new local channel – or londonlive.co.uk. What’s on it? Ah, that another column!
Stefano.hatfield is editorial director of londonlive.co.uk