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Local TV in Belfast: NvTv’s vision takes the TV crown

What’s new for local TV in Belfast? 

Northern Visions TV BelfastNorthern Visions TV has been awarded the licence to be the local TV channel in Belfast by media regulator Ofcom.

Also known as NvTv, the non-profit organisation edged out Made In Belfast to win the license, having broadcast online and on an analogue local TV licence since 2004.

Chairperson Simon Wood said: “Northern Visions is delighted to be part of this new and exciting venture.

“We would like to thank Ofcom and all our partners and supporters, and we look forward to making local television on digital terrestrial television a reality for Belfast.”

NvTv hopes to be live on Freeview in Belfast on September 9, 2013, but will launch two ultra local TV news channels online in advance.

October 10, 2012 (cover image by bea y fredi/Flickr)

Who are NvTv?

Northern Visions is a non-profit community-based media and arts organisation, which operates a media centre in the Cathedral Quarter of Belfast, which promotes education, training, access, production and distribution for visual artists, film and TV producers.

It aims to produce ‘a television service which reflects and enriches the diversity of the Belfast community by presenting programmes which contribute to expanding the variety of viewpoints broadcast in Northern Ireland and enhancing the diversity of programming choices available to the general public’.

What will be on NvTv?

As with most local TV channels, the focus of NvTv will be on news, with the first year seeing six bulletins a day on weekdays and Saturdays, with five-minute bulletins four times in the daytime, and 15-minute bulletins at 7pm and 10pm. Sunday will see a round-up of the week’s news added to the schedule.

A flagship 40-minute Community Today show will showcase in-depth news coverage every weeknight from the beginning.

The general aims of the channel are to broadcast local news, current affairs, and a wide range of creative, educational, and entertaining programming. It’s hoped this will widen the community’s involvement in broadcasting by encouraging active citizenship in making programming, inclusive of all under-represented communities.

A monthly business programme, The Insider, will become more regular as the channel develops, and there will be short films, documentaries, and studio discussions on different themes being promoted within Belfst, such as music week, Culture Night, Burns week for Ulster Scots, national consumer week, volunteering, community relations, housing, men’s health, national school sport, or child safety.

Along with ‘a lively mix of cultural and entertainment programming’, these will build into a programme bank that’s constantly refreshed to keep the schedules busy.

Other programmes will encourage citizen journalism, educating in the techniques to produce high quality content using mobile phones and other cheap video devices.

The first year will see broadcasts from midday to midnight, with an hour per day of live TV, with a goal of 8am starts by the third year, and output in Irish, Ulster Scots and other minority languages where possible.

The sample schedule below gives an idea of the output NvTv hopes to achieve.

Northern Visions Belfast sample schedule

Where will NvTv cover?

A national company will manage the TV transmissions for local TV channels, which will be transmitted on unused ‘interleaved’ frequencies between different parts of the UK.

The Belfast city area covers 268,000 people, but the full range of the transmitter is expected to reach more than 645,500 people.

Ofcom’s predicted coverage map below gives an indication of where the NvTv Freeview signal will reach (click for full-size image).

Ofcom local TV coverage prediction for Belfast

When will Local TV be coming to Belfast?

NvTv plans to launch two ultra-local news channels online in mid-2013, and is aiming to go live on Freeview on September 9, 2013, if the local TV multiplex is ready.

What’s Local TV all about?

Local TV is an ongoing project to bring local news, entertainment and services to at least 21 cities in the UK, with the possibility of this expanding to a further 28 areas.

Will I have to retune my Freeview box?

Local TV will be coming to Freeview channel 8 when it launches in Belfast, but it will be on a new frequency with two other new TV channels, so you will need to retune in order to get them all.

Can I get Local TV on Sky, Virgin Media or Freesat?

There’s still a debate as to where local TV will appear on Sky’s programme guide and how viewers will be able to get it.

Virgin Media is in favour of delivering a local TV through an app on its TiVo boxes, providing access to local TV streams from all over the country.

Sky and Freesat are a challenge for local TV channels, because it will be very expensive and wasteful to purchase satellite capacity for 21 channels. Every local channel will reach the whole country because satellite transmissions can’t be focussed onto small areas, even though they only need to reach a small area.

It’s more likely that the channels will be delivered over broadband using Sky On Demand and the new Free Time from Freesat.

Sky has suggested that local TV channels should be available through the yellow button on its remote control, because it doesn’t want to move Sky Living from number 108 in the Sky Guide. Virgin’s also in favour of using the yellow button instead of ousting the incumbent from channel 8, and although Freesat would have no trouble making channel 8 available, the yellow button could become the default for local TV like the red button has for interactive TV.