London Live TV: “Ready To Go”:

As any reader of the “London Evening Standard”(ES) will know by now, the capital is about to get its own TV station. Since the beginning of this year, each edition of the newspaper has featured the “countdown” to the launch of “London Live TV” on March 31st. That’s because the Evening Standard’s Russian owner, Evgeny Lebedev (also the proprietor of “The Independent”) obtained the “London franchise” when it became available in 2012. “Ofcom” (the regulating authority for the UK communications industry) has also granted 18 other TV licences – for example, “Bay TV ” (Liverpool) and “Your TV” (Manchester). There are more planned.

Stefano Hatfield, London Live’s Editorial Director, has pointed out in the “ES” that: “If Toronto can have City TV and New York can have “New York 1”, why not London? The new station will broadcast from “smart new studios in the ES offices in Kensington High Street, using the latest technology, employing around 70 new staff including journalists and up to 30 freelancers”. It will be available on Channel 8 (Freeview), 117 (Sky), 159 (Virgin), “You View 8”, “Londonlive.co.uk” as well as (but only in the UK) on laptops, tablets. It’s potential audience is the “9.1 million people in 4 million homes within the M25 (motorway) area”.

London Live won’t be accessible on “linear TV” beyond Watford because Channel 8 in that area will be occupied by Birmingham’s “City TV Broadcasting” station. In Stefano Hatfield’s view, “London’s young people are not being served by existing broadcasters” – a situation they aim to remedy, although they are “not trying to alienate older viewers”. On the contrary, much of their announced programming will have “cross-over appeal”, such as “The Shadow Line” (“an urban drama about a murder investigated by both the police and a gang of criminals”), the “Green Wing” (“a sitcom set in a fictional hospital”), “The Tube” (“a fascinating documentary series” about the London Underground) and the “Peep Show (a comedy about “two loveable losers  who hare a flat in Croydon”).

Hatfield emphasises that London Live wants to become known for introducing new talent in music, comedy and other areas of entertainment. They are determined not to reflect only what’s happening in the West End. The capital has “almost certainly the best ‘gig scene’ in the world, but there’s virtually no live music on TV (except for the ‘inimitable’ Jools Holland and the occasional performance by big, established acts on the Graham Norton and Jonathan Ross chat shows). It’s a real mystery as to how that situation has emerged”.

London Live “will go to venues big and small”. They want to give relatively unknown musicians the chance to emerge in addition to featuring famous artists such  “Bastille, Kelis, Stylo G, Band of Skulls, and Jessie J”, all of whom will appear in early episodes of the “12-part, one-hour weekly show “Sound Clash”. Another show, called “Balcony TV”, will consist of “up & coming indie bands doing acoustic sessions on a balcony overlooking Westminster”.

Most of London Live’s news staff  “are from television backgrounds”. Hatfield cites as examples the channel’s Head of news & current affairs, Vicky Cook (ex-BBC & Sky), programme producer Deborah Driscoll (BBC) and their main news presenter, Gavin Ramjaun (BBC & ITV). They “aren’t hiring a bunch of kids”, though Hatfield concedes that they aren’t “inventing the wheel” either in the sense that they will be “putting out the breakfast show (“Wake Up London”) for three hours in the morning followed by an hour at lunch-time, because these are the times of the day when people are able to watch the news”. The channel will also “obviously use journalists from the ES and The Independent when they are experts in their field – such as Simon Calder (“Britain’s best-known travel correspondent”): He’s in the building – It would be crazy not to.”

What will be different about London Live’s news presentation will be the “style, the way we speak to people, our choice of story”. Unlike their counterparts on BBC London & ITV News London, who “have to cram their stories into a short space of half an hour at night”, the channel’s news presenters will have “five & half hours programming per day”, thus the time to “explore and analyse key issues such as the crisis in renting in the capital. In the evenings, these will be reported and discussed on “London Go” from 6.30pm-7pm, followed immediately by the hour-long “Not The One Show”, which will offer viewers an “irreverent, inquisitive and unpredictable take on the headlines and talking points of the day”.

Hatfield acknowledges that people who want to know what happening around the world (such as in the Ukraine) are more likely to tune into Channel 4 News – a programme he admires but whose “audience figures are not as big as its huge reputation”. London Live’s remit, its licence, “is about focusing on the capital and portraying – in a way that, sadly, TV doesn’t do at the moment – its ethnic diversity…You just have to look outside the window to see what London is really like”.

The “londonlive.co.uk” website will have “33 local pages (one for each borough plus the City).  They have been actively seeking ‘London Eyes’ – ‘vloggers’ (video bloggers) who won’t be staff members but (they hope) will want to film, share and upload short films about their local communities”. If the channel is overwhelmed by contributions “It’s a problem we would welcome. We will start off with a lot of blank web pages to fill. We would clearly, though, have to edit them down and transmit the best”.

Vlogging, it seems, can sometimes become extremely profitable: According to the reporter Hannah Summers in the “Sunday Times” on March 16th, “A new generation of video bloggers is achieving the kind of celebrity usually associated with pop stars and footballers”. Some of them are “attracting more views than One Direction or Justin Bieber and amassing seven-figures fortunes through advertising revenue, brand sponsorship and product placement”.

In the Guardian on March 24th, the media commentator Roy Greenslade queried whether London Live will be able to “woo enough audience to win advertisements”. The Lebedev family, he noted, “is expected to spend more than £15 million, possibly £18 million, before the channel reaches ‘break-even’ in about three years”. Stefano Hatfield “can’t see why it won’t be eventually possible for advertising, sponsorship and other sources of revenue to cover all the costs”. They “won’t be getting any favours” from rival publishing groups, which is why “it’s an incredible advantage to have the Evening Standard.”

Hatfield depicts London as being a bit like “a nation-state”. He considers that the national press and TV are fighting “20 years of anti-London sentiment” with broadcasters being under pressure not to be London-centric, to go to the regions, to do things in places like Scotland, Wales and Manchester. “We actually believe that the capital has been ‘under-served’ on TV and that there are many London stories that don’t get told”.

How will they gauge their success? Half a dozen of their programmes “really have to have made a noise, to have drawn an audience, to have got people talking about them. Within a year, we’ve got to become part of the fabric of London life”. If they get anywhere near viewing figures of 4 million, they will be “dancing on their sofas”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Filed under: Media | Posted on March 26th, 2014 by Colin D Gordon

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