With dedicated local programming and news content, the channels will offer fresh opportunities for PR consultants and media relations teams to secure broadcast TV coverage, but how valuable will the opportunities be?
The local television licenses are part of a government initiative supported by former culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt. He saw these licenses as a way of strengthening local democracy. The new channels will be funded by advertising, sponsorship and a commercial agreement with the BBC, with local news, sport, culture and entertainment on Freeview, making them more accessible than previous stations that folded.
The project aims to give a voice to local communities by offering hyper-local TV. But the new stations don’t seem to be launching with a huge amount of fanfare, which could impact on their popularity.
Estuary TV, which broadcasts to 350,000 homes in East Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire, is the trailblazer in a new era of local television. The channel – which is already broadcasting in Grimsby – did generate some regional media attention when it first hit TV screens, with a local paper claiming it offers news and programmes that can really relate to its audiences. However, this may not be enough to drive the viewer numbers needed to make it a real contender against major players like the BBC, ITV and Sky.
Other areas which are expected to be served by the new channels are Belfast, Blackpool, Birmingham, Bristol, Brighton, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich, Nottingham, Oxford, Sheffield and Southampton.
With ‘local’ being the driver for these channels, we predict that the journalists who work on them will be keen for strong local PR content wherever possible. Shout! has already been to the London Live studios to check out what they are hoping to achieve.
We’re confident that the new channels will give some fantastic opportunities to get spokespeople, B-roll and stories on air, and will be a great way to target specific areas as part of a PR strategy.
However, our feeling is that it’s unlikely these channels will attract the big viewing figures that are commanded by national broadcasters and it will be hard to match the local news audience that tune in for the regional BBC and ITV news programmes. Our advice would be to make sure you know exactly what your client is looking for in terms of an audience, before you start approaching broadcasters so that you know that you’re securing the right kind of TV coverage.
To find out the latest about local TV and how securing regional coverage can enhance your campaign, sign up for one of our workshops.