Hereward model for Local TV has a focus on going live

Community television ('Local TV') is growing throughout the UK. Ofcom's Broadcast Licensing Committee (BLC) has awarded 34 local digital television programme service (L-DTPS) licences over the last five years. Local TV is a new form of broadcasting, enabled through legislation passed by Parliament in 2011. 

As the 27th largest City in the UK, with the second fastest growth, it is unfair for Peterborough not to have such a service, albeit this being an ancillary consideration within this Business Plan.

Many Local TV channels across the country are already on-air - channels are now broadcasting in locations such as Edinburgh, Oxford, Manchester, London, Glasgow, Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle, Cardiff, Bristol, Belfast, Nottingham, Norwich, Brighton and Hove, Grimsby, Liverpool, Preston/Blackpool and Birmingham. More are commencing operations as the months go by.

The Peterborough and Fenlands region has not, as yet, been considered for an L-DTPS licence to broadcast on Freeview (Channel 7 in England), as it is considered unviable. However, Hereward Television's Technical Director, Nik Fox, with 16 years of broadcast experience, has mapped out where a booster transmitter can be located, and with options which will make such an installation not only viable but also reasonably priced.

It is often said that with hundreds of channels available, there is still a perception that there is little to watch. There was even a song called '57 Channels (And Nothin' On)', written and performed by Bruce Springsteen, on his album 'Human Touch', released in 1992.

The growth in the numbers of channels available is not paralleled by a similar increase in channel content. Many channel numbers are simply other channels being broadcast an hour later ('Channel 4+1', 'ITV+1', 'Sky1+1').

There is also a reliance on imported programmes - in days gone by it used to be just from the USA, now we are seeing dramas coming to our shores from Denmark, Sweden, France, Belgium, and Germany. All in all, the percentage of home-grown material on UK channels is at an all-time low.

As commentator John Ward has noted in'The Slog': 'Choice is a tyranny when there are 300 channels available, of which 100 are about jewellery, 30 are about Mammon, 120 are about God, and the rest are showing repeats or third-rate made-for-TV movies.

'Britain's mainstream televisual media today represent a microcosm of what we've all gradually been fed since around 1990: lower standards.'

With the growth of legitimate TV on-demand services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, you can be assured that the amount of live television within our UK broadcast landscape will also be quickly diminishing. That is why there is so much appeal in Hereward Television's ethos of broadcasting live, looking to around a minimum of four hours a day when fully operational. We aim to secure viewers by being different in our approach of 'training first'.

Key personnel at Comux, the operator of the Local TV Multiplex in the UK which advises Ofcom on Local TV issues, have been made aware of our plans. They are in agreement that our production route has merit and is cost effective.

We do not want the City of Peterborough to miss out on being part of this revolution. There has been a huge investment in such operations. £40 million was made available for start-up costs by the UK Government, taken from the TV Licence fee, using available channels on the current digital television broadcast transmitters to deliver the stations to their coverage areas.  We will be lobbying, within Charity Commission principles for such activities, to ensure Ofcom makes an L-DTPS licence available for our region.

Our goal is to have a fully-working and supported service in-place by the time this happens in Peterborough. This will be made possible by developing the station first via online broadcasts and then Virgin Media. We have spoken to Virgin Media, and they are agreeable to working with us once we are on-air online, and we have applied for and received a separate Television Licensable Content Service (TLCS) licence from Ofcom - the awarding of which will allow Hereward Television to appear on their local services. BT and TalkTalk will follow in due course via the same licence.

Most of the awarded L-DTPS (Freeview) licensees have taken the traditional commercial television route of an entire workforce of paid staff, with a higher specification and price for equipment than is necessary - they have not taken account of the technological advancements which have been made in the industry, making entry-level and ongoing costs far more reasonable.

Hereward Television will be taking on the model of 'Community Radio', where the service is charitable, driven primarily by beneficiaries, with this being an ancillary service both created for and designed by the citizens of our region.  We are not forcing content onto our viewers, it will be created by them, for them, and ratings, good or bad, will not dictate whether shows live or die.

Even though our programme catalogue will be mastered, and retained, in 4K (the latest development on from HD broadcasting, aka 'Ultra-HD'), the equipment sourced for our studios, outside broadcasts, and external filming will deliver exceptional quality at a budget price, so our beneficiaries learn on industry standard technology. For instance, Black Magic has developed equipment which is around a tenth of the price of some options which are available.

The Hereward Television broadcast schedule will need time to nurture. By starting now, and working with those who will benefit from being involved, we will have a developing team of beneficiaries ready to premiere their tried-and-tested material on the local Freeview transmission service, putting the content into the front rooms of further target beneficiaries.

By providing training in television and media skills, we can also act as a 'talent pool' for other broadcasters, in particular shopping channels in Peterborough, and hence assisting local people into local employment. It also contributes to citizens having a better appreciation of television as a medium, and how it can be used to educate.

Hereward Media's Directors bring their skills to the table in the areas of programme formatting, scripting, presentation and production; broadcast engineering, transmission and training; sales, public relations and marketing; accountancy and business administration; and technical expertise.

The success of the Hereward Television project will be driven by being able to bring out the best in people, but also ensuring that we are ahead of the game in terms of the changes which are coming to the broadcasting landscape. We will encourage as much live content on our channel as possible. With so many people now using 'catch-up' services such as the BBC iPlayer to view programmes, we must encourage viewers to watch live. Our TV formats must build in the ability for those watching to have their say in shows, via social media, texts, emails, phone calls, and Skype. This ensures that the training of our beneficiaries is as relevant as possible.

Our other key commitment, very much a competitive strength, is to Outside Broadcasting, again much of which will be live. Traditionally, other Local TV services across the UK are not keen or are unable to go out into their communities, but we consider this essential - to spread the word to potential beneficiaries of our training. It will be very difficult to ignore our Local TV service if these potential beneficiaries also see it 'out and about'.

In 2017, we are already confirmed to be at both 'The Peterborough CAMRA Beer Festival' and 'The Willow Festival', two of the largest events in our region, broadcasting live for the duration of these occasions, talking to those in attendance, and seeking those who will most benefit from our training.

All these initiatives and actions will prove that Hereward Television really is “the station you can really call your own”.