If you live in certain areas of the country, chances are you’ll have a local TV station on Freeview, that really is local.
One of those providing such channels are That’s TV, but former Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has called for the government to “pull the plug” on the initiative.
The idea is simple – local content, produced by local people. It’s mean to be a another addition to the channels on Freeview and bring really localised journalism to your TV when compared to the BBC and ITV regionals, who often cover more than just the city/town in which you live. It was an initiative set up by the Government back in 2011, which has had limited success.
A Buzzfeed investigation however, found that the BBC was paying hundreds of thousands of pounds a year to the company, that produces often unusable content. To put that into perspective, the BBC pays these community TV channels £147.50 for stories local stations submit, regardless whether they have been used or not, with each company expected to send 85 stories per month, per area.
That’s TV is the biggest player in the industry, founded by Daniel Cass. It currently holds 14 local business licences with plans to extend further into the Isle of Man and Scotland. Stations include That’s Cumbria, That’s Lancashire, That’s Swansea Bay, That’s Norfolk and That’s Oxfordshire, to name but a few.
However, the stations have recently come over scrutiny from former employees, whom were paid very little, or nothing at all, for the stories they produced. Elle Rudd, a former That’s TV employee, documented her struggles on Twitter in a very open, honest and frank thread.
I can only speak for my local That’s TV station, which is one of the ones listed above. Whenever I’ve watched it, I’ve often found the sound quality to be extremely poor, adverts to be out of date occasionally (Specifically a BT Broadband advert where an offer had already expired). In the evenings, the “news” element of the channel is an hour of headlines either from the day, the week just gone, or last week, depending on when you watch it. But there’s nothing new, this is literally on a loop from 17:00 until 09:00 the following day.
During daytime hours, they’ll show classic films, often in black and white, and other ancient programmes they can broadcast for little cost. In fact, one of the programmes received a complaint to Ofcom and, after an investigation by the media regulator, the station was found to be in breach of two Ofcom rules. This related to a cartoon “Suddenly It’s Spring”, which was broadcast on March 17th. Ofcom said the cartoon’s character of Mr Cloud reinforced a negative and offensive racial stereotype. The channel responded by saying the cartoon had been reclassified to prevent any future scheduling.
Based on the poor qualities of the channel, both in terms of the way they treat their employees, the poor quality of programming, repetitiveness and Ofcom breaches, surely that’s enough, especially of That’s TV?
You only have to look at other similar channels by other groups including Made In, to see how they operate. The quality seems much better, audio is much better and you’d hope employees or those involved in these other companies are being treated better.
STV2 in Scotland ceased broadcasting at the end of June following a strategic review of the loss-making channel. The local TV licences that were once STV2 have been sold, to That’s TV, who have not yet announced plans for Scotland.
Surely this shouldn’t be happening? If they can’t get the basics right here in England, do they expect to have success in Scotland? Ofcom acknowledged back in April that the Local TV initiative set up by the Government in 2011 has failed in its mission to create a sustainable nationwide network of TV stations, yet licences are still being dished out?
I’m all for local TV and local radio and it’s always good to get local people involved. But when you’re using public money and providing a failing service, someone needs to be accountable.
We await the scrutiny of the Scotland licence takeover, if there will even be scrutiny? But regardless, that’s enough for now.