BBC to pilot TV news 'as local as our radio services'

By Caitlin Pike

BBC
director general Mark Thompson has announced the pilot of a new local
television news service designed to serve individual cities and
counties across the UK. The trials will start in September in five
different areas of the West Midlands.

Speaking at a CBI lunch in
Birmingham on Friday, Thompson announced that the pilot scheme would
use the latest broadcasting technology to create different kinds of
local television news on broadband and digital satellite TV, on digital
cable and possibly on remote devices such a mobile phones.

The
pilots will run in Herefordshire and Worcestershire; Stoke and
Staffordshire; Shropshire; Coventry and Warwickshire; and the BBC WM
editorial area, including Birmingham.

Thompson said: “They will be as local as our radio services, serving individual cities, conurbations and counties.”

There
will be a rolling interactive service running on digital satellite TV
available at fixed points within each hour, accessed via the red button
on viewers’ remote controls. The same regularly updated sequences of up
to ten minutes’ duration will also be available instantly on demand: on
the internet, on broadband TV, or even via mobile phones.

David
Holdsworth, head of regional and local programming for the West
Midlands, said: “We have been working on the project for 18 months and
there are 30 journalists working directly on it.

At the end of the nine month pilot there will be a review of the service but of course we hope that it will continue running.”

Thompson
said the aim of the project was to create a new model of local
television, centred on news, information and community partnerships. He
said the service would work with public, private and voluntary sector
partners to build and sustain the pilot service. One producer in each
area will work exclusively on developing networks of local contributors
and community correspondents.

Once the pilot scheme is completed
a rigorous appraisal will be conducted, including its market impact in
the West Midlands. Subject to these tests and a formal review by the
BBC Governors, the BBC then hopes to introduce around 60 similar
services across the UK.

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