BBC and UWE back bid for Bristol TV station

A NEW TV network for Bristol could unite independent production companies, student journalists and bloggers in providing an ultra-local digital service for the city’s communities.

Bristol NUJ can reveal that one of the potential bidders for a Local Media Company licence in the city is the Anchor Project – a collaboration between the BBC, the University of the West of England and several other Bristol media organisations including the NUJ.

Ofcom last month named Bristol as one of 20 cities where a local TV service is technically possible and where consultation is under way with interested parties. There are understood to be two other potential bidders in Bristol apart from Anchor, but neither has been publicly named.

Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has outlined a vision for local TV stations to provide new services not filled by other media to boost local democracy.

They will be expected to turn a profit by attracting significant audiences and advertising – something few local TV services in the UK have managed. The last attempt locally, known as Bristol TV, ceased broadcasting in 2003.

However, Mr Hunt has said he does not see why a city such as Birmingham cannot have as many as four competing TV news services, as seen in similar-sized US cities such as Birmingham, Alabama.

Setting out its vision for the new service, the submission from the Anchor Project to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport states:

“Our vision for local TV is one which promotes active citizenship through participative production, and enhances the provision of underserved public service content, particularly around children’s, educational, arts, cultural and religious programming.

“The local media service we create will facilitate exchange of local news and information, provide healthy scrutiny and discussion of local democracy and local issues, offering a meaningful and interactive relationship with readers/viewers, and promoting cross-cultural understanding.”

The Anchor Project’s two main partners are BBC and the journalism school at UWE. Other supporters include Bristol City Council, community radio station BCFM, the Knowle West Media Centre, the umbrella creative organisation Bristol Media, news website Bristol 24/7, the Community Media Association and Ujima Radio.

The station’s news service would extend the Mediashare agreement between the BBC, BCFM and Ujima Radio, which enables the use of audio programmes on all three platforms, into video. “Reporting will be collaborative – aggregating and referencing other sources ranging from Bristol City Council to individual bloggers,” says the submission.

The service would focus on four other key areas apart from news:

• Music – including “visual coverage of performances, interviews and listings”;

• Sport – building on the popularity of local organisations such as the Downs Football League, the largest of its type in the country;

• Culture – capitalising on the city’s wide range of venues and events, from the nationally-known Watershed and Arnolfini to local events such as the St Paul’s carnival;

• Sustainability – making the most of the city’s green credentials, from its status as a “cycling city” and host to a number of environmental organisations to initiatives like farmers markets and eco homes.

The staffing and organisation of the proposed new station are not yet clear. The submission to the DCMS talks of encouraging “cohorts of citizen journalists in each area” and utilising students from UWE’s journalism courses – rated the second most popular in the UK according to an official student survey last year.

“We recognise the many ways that students of journalism can make a substantial difference to the genuine provision of local content, helping to create a new sector of the media,” says the submission.

Further details on the bids are expected from Ofcom imminently.

The first licences were expected to be awarded for local stations in the summer of 2012 with services to start digital transmissions within two years. However, some think this timetable ambitious.

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  1. A local TV station for Bristol would work I feel – the sense of community spirit in Bristol is very strong. We all support each other through a great network, with a large boost in recent years coming from social media. Therefore TV may well act and evolve in the same way. A city such as Birmingham, although of substantial size, I feel lacks the togetherness that residents of Bristol feel.
    We also have an excellent University here, full of creative and intelligent young individuals who would benefit immensely from becoming involved in a project such as this where research, vision, teamwork, leadership skills are essential and help prepare them for the workplace.

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