Posted by: Dr John Jewell
On Wednesday, TV Company Made unveils Made In Cardiff, the Capital’s very own local television service. It promises to fill gaps neglected by established local television and provide the people of the city with a ‘fresh and alternative viewing option’.
It will, amongst other items, broadcast 30 minutes news programmes twice nightly, produce current affairs features and devote itself to Cardiffian entertainment and sport.
Having been awarded the licence to broadcast by OFCOM in September 2012, the progress towards the opening night has been rather troubled, not least because of confusion over the funding of the company responsible for building and maintaining the infrastructure of the network required to broadcast. What is clear, though, is that Made In Cardiff itself will receive £150,000 from the BBC in its first year, with a lesser amount forthcoming in the two years after that.
There are two questions: the first of which is, does Cardiff need a local television station? According to former Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, who had the idea of local TV stations across the UK in 2010, the answer is emphatically: yes. He told BBC Wales in 2011: ’people are absolutely passionate about their local communities, and frankly this has been one of the big gaps. We have very popular local radio stations, local newspapers, but this is a multi-media age and it’s crazy that we can have local information on our iPods but not on our TVs.’
Not surprisingly, this view is endorsed by Made in Cardiff’s, Bryn Roberts, station manager, who said, ‘people are interested in what’s happening down the street rather than what’s happening 200 miles away’…..Cardiff has long been neglected by not having proper local coverage and we’re looking forward to creating content by the people of Cardiff for the people of Cardiff. ‘
The second most and most pertinent question is, £150,000 from the BBC notwithstanding, how will the channel fund itself? The aim is be fully self-sufficient in three years’ time with the bulk of revenue coming from local advertisers. It’s vision is extremely bold as the Guardian found when it examined its business memorandum: Made TV says that each of its four local channels will be able to break even on “less than £1m per annum” and that the “economics of Made TV’s lean operating model enables it to offer a hugely compelling price point for advertisers of £10 per spot. Made TV only needs to average £10 per spot to deliver on its business plan.”
Just £10 for each ad? Wow.
It has to be said that the omens for success are not particularly favourable. OFCOM recently revealed that it is ‘very unlikely’ that all local TV stations will survive’ and London Live, the biggest station to launch, is in serious difficulties having recorded close to zero audience figures for some its programmes. Birmingham City TV went into administration without ever reaching broadcast – it had failed, through insufficient funding, to even find studio space and equipment.
But there are plenty of reasons to think that Made in Cardiff can be a success. As D – Day approaches it has 20 staff based in offices in the city centre, very talented journalists (Mariclare Carey-Jones has considerable experience with ITV Wales News) and lists partnership links with a variety of established names such as Cardiff University, Cardiff Blues and Glamorgan CCC. Cardiff is also, lest we forget, the 3rd biggest (behind Salford and London, of course) media centre in the UK. Its creative industries are thriving.
The key to success, though, is ultimately financial and lies in attracting advertisers. And they only way that will happen is through producing and broadcasting programmes that people want to watch. I’ve just looked at the sample schedule from 2102. I wonder if ‘Pets in the City’ and ‘Misbehaving Mums to be’ are still on the menu?
Made in Cardiff will appear on Freeview channel 23, Sky 134 and Virgin Media 159.