Well the other broadcasters are certainly not very keen to pay for it, ITV rather rudely declining coalition government culture, media and sport secretary Jeremy Hunt’s plea to invest a reported ‘tens of millions’ in a new network of local TV stations.
Channel 4 CEO David Abraham isn’t much keener either although his position is softer, C4 is a public body and the culture secretary is Abraham’s ultimate boss. So C4, which made a £54m profit last year, may need to stump up £15m.
The BBC, which has already seen its (generous) licence fee cut sharply has coughed up £25m and guaranteed to provide £5m of programmes.
So why is Hunt, who seems to be cool and measured on most matters like the News Corporation bid for the 61 per cent of BSkyB it doesn’t own (he’s likely to wave the bid through soon) so obsessed with local TV Channel 6?
All politicians like to leave something behind for the dreaded day when they slip down politics’ greasy pole but a local/national hybrid TV service permanently on the brink of going bust is hardly a decent legacy.
Advertisers and media agencies are far from convinced that such a service would give them anything they need or don’t have already. The supposed ‘carrot’ for ITV and others is the ability to sell ads on the new channel but they have enough problems selling what they’ve got already as money continues to leak away to online.
And the UK has no history of successful local TV. Some might point to the good old days of ITV when it was comprised of a large number of local fiefdoms but even then the big boys – Thames (then Carlton) and London Weekend Television in the capital, Granada in the north west and Central in the midlands effectively ran the show.
And the local news and feature bits that follow the main news bulletins on the BBC are usually an excuse for many people to switch off or over.
Hunt would do much better to back an online TV channel that would provide access to programme makers outside the orbit of the BBC and ITV Studios and the big indie producers who currently dominate the airwaves.
If some of this was local fine, if not that would be fine too.
Then the market would be for programme not advertising sales, a bit like America’s Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).
Hunt’s boss prime minister David Cameron has said that he wants to create the UK’s version of Silicon Valley in the east end of London (shame about the weather). A government (or BBC-backed) online TV channel would help enormously.
So come on Jeremy, be sensible.