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Home » All, Speakers' Corner

Made in Leeds TV

Submitted by on February 15, 2013 – 11:23 pm16 Comments

Guest post by Richard Horsman @LeedsJourno

I’m guessing there’ll be a few sore heads this morning down Chapeltown Road, and more specifically at the Savile Road studios of Made in Leeds TV, the proud new holders of a licence to broadcast a local service to the city on channel 8 of the region’s Freeview Digital TV.

Not only because winning any franchise battle against stiff opposition deserves a celebration, but also because the directors, staff and community collaborators involved in the bid will be waking up to the hard realisation that local television for Leeds is no longer just a dream, but something very real they must deliver within two years, and ideally by the target launch date of November this year.

The process of competitive bidding is designed to ensure that the best possible service is offered for viewers in the service area. At its best it’s a rigorous process designed to test all applicant groups fairly against objective criteria. At its worst it can become a beauty contest in which business backers and creative types have to woo regulators with sequins and makeup .. and by promising something a bit special the opposition can’t match.

This time there were five eager contenders on the catwalk hoping to land the judges’ vote. They all had confusingly similar names, so pay attention.

The bidders were Leeds TV Ltd. (‘Leeds TV’); Made Television Ltd. (‘Made in Leeds’); Metro8 Ltd. (‘Metro 8 Leeds’); TV North Ltd. (‘TV North’); and YourTV Leeds Ltd. (‘YourTV Leeds’).

As well as publishing the criteria on which the rival bids were assessed, the broadcast regulator OFCOM has also published a breakdown of its reasoning in choosing Made in Leeds as the winner.

First back in the dressing room was TV North, with a pretty sniffy OFCOM appraisal that the bid ‘was generally less developed than those from the other four applicants’ and that ‘operational and business planning aspects of the application were not sufficiently developed’. In other words – must try harder.

Metro 8 Leeds, the next to be told ‘It’s not you’, had strong management but ‘did not demonstrate an understanding of the needs of the local population to the same extent as the other four applicants’. OFCOM felt their problem was too little community involvement.

Leeds TV demonstrated strong finance, strong local links and an understanding of the locality; but the wholehearted backing of Leeds United turned out to be a liability, in that OFCOM believed that even though football fans may be over the moon ‘there was a relative lack of engagement with other aspects of the locality’.

With just two contenders remaining, OFCOM clearly faced a difficult choice, as both Made in Leeds and YourTV Leeds ‘proposed services that would meet the broad needs of the local area, and would broaden the range of programmes available for viewing in the local area, and made in and about the local area, by a similar extent’. In other words, they’d both ticked all the boxes.

However in their final judgement OFCOM felt that Made in Leeds ‘demonstrated greater understanding of the specific needs of the area and had stronger local links and more developed partnership proposals’, and that the group ‘gave more specific undertakings in its Programming Commitments, giving the Broadcast Licencing Committee confidence that the needs of the area would be met in the way proposed’.

The group has a very local public face, with facilities company boss Isi Abebe heading up a team including such familiar Leeds names such as digital journalist John Baron, writer and commentator Mark O’Brien, Hebe Media’s Lee Hicken, and Leeds Salon co-founder Paul Thomas.  But it’s also part of a much bigger media operation. Made in Leeds is in fact one of four city TV franchises to be won by Made Television, which will also be providing local services in Bristol, Cardiff and Newcastle.

So what can we expect in the way of actual telly programmes? The Made in Leeds website features a graphic promising … well, just about everything, really.

Output will be original, witty, quirky, challenging and colourful. They’ll grow talent, build character and embrace the unique as well as levelling playing fields and lifting stones (though presumably not both at the same time). It doesn’t actually mention motherhood or apple pie, but I think we can take it as read they’re in favour.

As for their more specific promises, The company website states that ‘60% of locally-produced output will be dedicated to local news and current affairs, including 8 hours of live content every week alongside a daily magazine show and a weekly sports programme broadcast from purpose-built Television studios at The Leeds Media & Broadcasting Centre’.

Made in Leeds is committing to provide two half hour daily local news programmes at 7pm and 9pm, as well as a service ‘automated 90-second news updates’, for which they’ll draw on the resources of Radio Aire and community contributors as well as the station’s own video journalists.

Moving forward, Made in Leeds’ biggest challenge will be managing expectations.

There was a meeting in April (hosted by The Culture Vulture) last year in the Howard Assembly Rooms at which representatives from a wide range of community groups made their feelings very clear what they wanted from local television. It was a very long wish list.

And, as I wrote at the time, many of the community aspirations are simply unrealistic, especially in times of austerity.

The day Made in Leeds broadcasts a full, main-house opera live from the stage of the Leeds Grand Theatre I’ll happily streak down the Headrow. It’s simply not affordable.

Likewise the producers face a challenge filling a TV programme with half an hour of specific, local Leeds news every day. I’m expecting that the 7 and 9 programmes will have a lot of content in common. That’s not a complaint, just a statement of fact; watch how often reports are recycled on the BBC News Channel and Sky News.

My postgraduate news trainees at Leeds Trinity University do half an hour of live TV news in a webcast programme called Leeds Today which we put out for three weeks every summer, backed up by five full-time technicians and a two highly experienced TV professionals as tutors.

In less than a month everyone involved is knackered. At that point Made in Leeds will have another 49 weeks to go before they reach their first birthday.

And even though Leeds has more than its fair share of characters to sit on whatever colour couch they decide to use, the producers will inevitably reach a point when the same roster of guests begins to feel tired. That’s a problem common to editors in TV, radio and online.

So, as they reach for the paracetamol, I wish the Made in Leeds team every success in their efforts. There is nothing more exciting than launching a new media project with an enthusiastic team against a tight deadline. Local TV in Leeds could become a fantastic new community resource so long as producers and audiences are realistic about what can really be achieved. Really.

It’s time to store away the sequins and put on the overalls.

 

Richard Horsman (@Leedsjourno) is Teaching Fellow in Journalism at Leeds Trinity University and current holder of the BBC Education Partnership Achievement Award for developing talent in the north. He’s taught on the Postgraduate Diploma in Broadcast Journalism at Leeds Trinity since 1993, and is a former commercial radio news editor.

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16 Comments »

  • John Popham says:

    I really, really hope this venture succeeds. We need more local media with local content tailored to people’s needs.

    However . There’s a “but”‘, and it’s a big “BUT”. I still believe the whole local TV thing as it is being implemented is a flawed model built on 20th Century thinking. The Internet has changed everything, including television, and the answer is not to create more old-style TV stations. Your point about the prohibitive costs of broadcasting opera are a case in point. I broadcast live material at low cost. I do this by using low cost equipment and free live streaming tools. It’s relatively easy and cheap to do. It produces content which is watchable and audible, and is usually well received both by the client and the viewers. However, even though the tools I use are getting more sophisticated (although still cheap or free), it doesn’t produce content that would stand up against what is broadcast on a traditional TV channel in terms of picture and sound quality. But the reality is that people are moving away from demanding that kind of quality for everything they view. YouTube is massively popular, and look at the most watched videos on there. The vast majority of them are poor quality pictures of cats playing pianos or dogs on skateboards. The picture and sound quality are irrelevant, it is the content that matters.

    I could broadcast a live opera at very low cost. You’d probably not want to watch it on a big TV screen, but I bet thousands would watch it on a PC, tablet or mobile phone. This is the future of broadcasting and consumption of media content. The Internet is happening, the old models are clinging on to a past that is receding.

  • Rich says:

    Does anyone know if Made In Leeds TV will be broadcast on Virgin too? I live in a central Leeds flat with no aerial so Freeview is not an option for me.

    • Peter Lane says:

      Signal strength for Freeview in central Leeds is usually good, even using an indoor aerial without a booster.
      Your aerial must be HORIZONTAL (no bunny ears or upright loop) and facing South-West towards Emley Moor.
      Do any of your windows look in south-westerly direction?
      Try a friend’s aerial or chance spending a quid for one at the pound shop and make sure you position it so that the the elements are high up and correctly oriented.

      • John Popham says:

        All the Local TV channels will be available on Channel 8 on Freeview and, Virgin Media have said that most (including Leeds) will be available on their platform. Sky has reserved Channel 17 for the local London channel, but I’m not sure about the other areas.

    • Aaron says:

      You might have already found this out but it will launch on Virgin Channel 159 in November.

  • Peter Lane says:

    Excellent article thank you Richard Horsman.

  • For those wanting more detail of the day to day programme schedule … this is the ‘indicative’ weekly output which Made in Leeds submitted to OFCOM:

    http://licensing.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/tv/local-tv/applicants/Made_in_Leeds_indicative.pdf

    And no, I have no idea what ‘Tony Love Shaft’ is either. I’m only a simple journalist.

    • Gary Hudson says:

      Insightful and informed as ever, Mr H. I’m disappointed you didn’t research the aforementioned Loveshaft, a spoof disco DJ, it would appear. Alan Partridge without the genius of Steve Coogan does not bode well, particularly when the winners of the Norwich bid specifically promise ‘no Alan Partridges’.
      I wish all these services well, but it’s a tough ask. There was no discernible audience or sufficient local ad revenue for local TV when most people had a choice of five channels, so why should there be when people have a choice of 500?
      The availability of low quality but quirky (and usually short) video entertainment on YouTube only compounds the problem since the days of cable and RSL offerings, all of which learned the hard way that there are sound commercial reasons why there has not been more localised TV. It costs too much to do it to the standard we’ve come to expect from our major broadcasters.

  • Paul Clarke says:

    Dare I mention Channel M which crashed and burned even with the might of the MEN behind it.

    I hope this works but I can’t where the audience is for very local TV. Maybe younger people will abandon their smartphones for this very traditional offer or maybe older viewers will abandon Harry G in their droves?

    I’m assuming Made in Leeds have done their audience research so maybe they could share it with us?

  • RickWaghorn says:

    Interesting piece; obviously a lot of questions still up in the air… But exciting times; the buzz is back in local.

    As it happens, Jamie Conway – the ceo of Made – is speaking at a gig in Newcastle on March 5; specifically to talk about their plans for Newcastle, but I strongly suspect that what works in one city, will be tailored to work in another…

    Here’s the details; and for anyone of a developer frame of mind having access to a transport API that delivers ‘content’ into every bus-stop in Leeds is a useful first building block too…

    http://rickwaghorn.co.uk/2013/02/16/two-more-friends-of-the-family-to-speak-at-1000flowers-two-more-people-who-know-that-by-building-together-we-can-still-find-an-answer-that-works-for-every-block/

    All welcome…

  • David Miller says:

    Surely the trouble about local TV for Leeds is that it won’t be local. I have lived inside the city boundaries for 20 years but there are parts of the city I have never visited. I am more interested in what goes on in Hampstead than in Morley on the basis that I go here more often. And I’ve been to Paris more times than I’ve been to Pudsey.

    So why would I be interested in watching a cooking programme whose only USP is that the contributors come from Leeds?

    The experience of BBC local radio is that it does best in areas like Cornwall or the Channel Islands which are geographically isolated with settled communities. Unlike Leeds.

    If local TV is still here in Leeds in 2018 in the form currently envisaged I will eat my TV licence.

  • Thanks for the post Richard, a most helpful digest. I agree about the challenges of generating quality content will be huge.

    I’m sure they will have to take a radically different way of gathering and processing content. The traditional documentary, news show or outside broadcast simply aren’t going to be feasible.

    The whole nature of journalism is shifting towards that of being a curator rather than a generator of news – which is actually more interesting I think. All too often the newsrooms contrive to ‘make’ news stories with a shortage or journalists and other resources. It’s difficult enough for the big boys.

    It will be interesting to see what sort of partnerships they might form perhaps with your own journalism students, renowned local bloggers, community centres, schools and so on. I’m sitting in Woodhouse Community Centre where we are working with local community groups to encourage local story telling. Very much journalism from the inside, of attachment.

    There’s no doubt in my mind that they will have to be part of the big conversation rather then yet another competing media voice.

  • Paul Rayment says:

    Although the Channel M comparison has been made a few times just because one channel has failed doesn’t mean they all will. But considering the support Channel M had I’d be surprised if others stand a chance.

    What surprised me at the Question Time-like event held last year was that much of what people wanted is already being supplied in Leeds, just not on TV so much, perhaps because TV is the most expensive medium of them all. We have plenty of print, online, radio and TV.

    It’s not like there is a gap in the market, Made is going to have some pretty powerful competition ahead of itself.

    Also, has there been any answer to advertising? Will it be add-supported if that’s the plan I’d love to see their pricing.

    I want this to succeed, I just don’t see why we need it or how it can.

  • I want it to succeed too, and guess that the people at Made Television HQ in London have worked out a cunning plan to generate enough revenue to pay for the 11 local production/ editorial staff in Leeds (£300k a year?), running costs AND produce a decent return for the parent company.

    Otherwise they wouldn’t be doing it.

    I’ve been looking through the schedule to see what I’ll watch when it starts.

    Definitely the local news at 7pm – especially as it’s going to concentrate on “increasing access to democracy and local authority accountability”.

    Also because it’s going to include “UGC news pieces” (anyone?) contributed by “a network of citizen journalists”. Should be interesting.

    And I’ll definitely watch the local current affairs panel programmes, especially if Paul Thomas gets a slot where he’s allowed to wind everyone up.

    And The Square Ball should be good too. And maybe some live local music.

    After that, I’m beginning to struggle. The property programme? Maybe, if it was Emma and Phil instead of Kirsty and Phil.

    Not sure, though, about any of those “local” programmes that are going to be all over the schedule, shared with Cardiff, Bristol and Newcastle – MOR Dating, Pets and the City, Pet Patrol, Signature Dish, Motor City … Hmmmm.

    Or the programmes bought in by Made Television HQ in London to be broadcast on all its stations – Daily Cooks Challenge, Misbehaving Mums-to-be, Children’s Emergency …

    But hey, there are probably loads of people who’ll be glued to that stuff. They wouldn’t put it on otherwise, would they?

    In the meantime, some well-made, challenging, local TV news and current affairs on the telly every day is definitely going to be a bonus, so roll on November!

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