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Local TV in Birmingham: City TV aims to be the UK’s first live local TV channel

Birmingham by srboisvert/Flickr

What’s new for local TV in Birmingham?

City TV aims to be the UK’s first live local TV channel

City TV Broadcasting has started work towards going on-air to Birmingham and the Black Country by June 2013.

Media regulator Ofcom has awarded City TV the licence to broadcast a local TV channel for Birmingham and the surrounding areas, beating Bham TV, Made in Birmingham, and YourTV Birmingham.

City TV CEO, Debra Davis, said: “We are ecstatic with winning the local TV licence. This is game-changing for Birmingham.

“City TV has been years in development and at last, we can get on with the job; putting all our creativity and commercial sense into creating an engaging, informative and entertaining channel that gets to the heart of local.

“What this means for Birmingham is that it will have its own television channel reporting what is relevant to this great city.

“Stay tuned. City TV will be on-line and on air in 2013. Birmingham will be our living studio. And people in Birmingham will be both the audience and its stars.”

Davis promised that City TV would involve universities and colleges, business leaders, diverse community groups, young people and Birmingham’s independent production and broadcast sector.

November 7, 2012 (image srboisvert/Flickr)

City TV Birmingham local TV logoWho are City TV?

City TV was founded by Alan Grindley, who cut his teeth on the Town TV cable station in Hampshire, Wiltshire and Oxfordshire in the early 1990s, and has produced and directed numerous rock music documentaries.

Chief executive, Debra Davis, is a former director of public affairs and communications for Birmingham City Council, company director Derek Inman was head of UK regions for BT, while Jacques de Suze has developed the City TV local broadcasting model on three continents since 1972.

Local institutions involved in City TV include Greater Birmingham’s Chamber of Commerce, colleges and universities including Birmingham City University, University of Birmingham, and South & City College Birmingham as training centres where students will be able to gain live experience working in TV, plus Birmingham’s many arts establishments: the CBSO, Royal Birmingham Ballet, Sampad, The Drum, mainstream theatres, Hippodrome, The Rep, NEC, NIA, Symphony Hall, The Town Hall, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, and The Ikon.

What will be on City TV?

City TV will be covering news and current affairs in Birmingham, Solihull, Wolverhampton, Walsall and Dudley. It’s promised to encourage hyper-local content, with news and video workshops to help bloggers in the community become video news producers.

The 24-hour schedule will begin with a daily live breakfast show of up to two hours, which will showcase news, business and current affairs, community programming, arts and entertainment, and local sport.

Other elements of the schedule will include film (including world films), acquired, network, commissioned and advertiser-funded programmes from Birmingham and other local TV channels, and children’s programming (largely ages 9-15).

Six hours a day will be set-aside for either revenue-generating programming such as tele-shopping, syndicated programming, or paid-for programming from another channel. This could feature shows from India’s Star TV, which already has a substantial audience in the Birmingham area, or other partners suitable for the area’s ethnically mixed population.

Other live TV will include 30-minute news shows at noon, early evening, and late night, with top-of-the-hour news bulletins four times a day. Also planned are live sports or a live sports call-in show at least once a week.

Additional entertainment programming – quiz shows, music shows, comedy shows – will be recorded ‘as live’.

Late night slots will also be made available for shows in other languages with English sub-titles, with sponsored pre- and mid-rolls teaching English as an additional language.

The indicative schedule below gives an idea of how the schedule will work out in the first two years.

City TV Birmingham indicative local TV schedule

Where will City TV cover?

The greater conurbation of Birmingham – including part of Wolverhampton, Walsall, Dudley – hosts 1.2 million households.

The map below gives an indication of the predicted coverage from the Brierley Hill and Sutton Coldfield transmitters.

City TV Birmingham predicted Freeview coverage

When will Local TV be coming to Birmingham?

City TV has promised to work closely with the local TV multiplex operator to ensure that Birmingham will be the first channel to be on-air on Freeview with a launch date between Easter 2013 and June 2013.

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 Birmingham, 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. 

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