Comment and insight on journalism issues from Press Gazette's guest writers

Riposte to Ben Bradshaw's 'flop' claim: Local TV is needed for democracy

Former Labour Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw told Press Gazette this month that he thought plans to launch a network of local TV stations would be a “flop”.

Here Bill Smith – proprietor of Brighton-based local TV licensee The Latest – hits back:

I’m shocked that Ben Bradshaw is against local TV and even more shocked that his reasons seem to be all financial. Does he make his decisions on the NHS in a similar black and white balance sheet way?

My dad was in at the start of the NHS, when before that all the best medical facilities were only in London. But healthcare has been democratised. Now if you want to be a surgeon or a nurse you can work at top level in Brighton.

That is not true in television. There are no high quality TV studios to compare with London studios here in Brighton and Hove and if our young people want to work in the business they probably have to commute to London. Ben, you went to the University of Sussex and then left Brighton. Are you recommending this approach for everyone?

If you turn on TV here in Brighton and Hove for local news you see Southampton or Maidstone studios. This is not local.

The public here deserve better. All parties here in Brighton are behind us having our own TV for the simple reason that local TV equals local democracy. Where would national democracy be without Adam Boulton and Nick Robinson and their Westminster reporting.

We will cover local politics in just that way and we have a view too on national and international affairs that deserves to be heard just as much as the London voice.

If you are in any doubt check out our programme The Vote at thelatest.tv which has recently featured debates with Lord Bassam (Labour), Mike Weatherley MP (Conservative) and Jason Kitcat (Green and Leader of the Council) among others. We intend to broadcast this programme five times a week when we start broadcasting terrestrially, giving all our politicians a platform for our electorate to vote on.

TV is one of our biggest industries. Let’s expand it and export more great programmes around the world. We won’t do that if we retain London-centric control which seems to be what you are advocating. (ITV and ITN, Sky and BBC and CHs 4 and 5 all in London.) You say only London will work.

Why? Are they brighter there than Exeter or Brighton or what? STV is one of the local TV network, soon to be starting channels in Glasgow and Edinburgh in partnership with universities. They make world class programmes already and will now encourage the next generation to emulate creator of STV’s own Taggart Glenn Chandler, or make home grown films like Scottish filmmaker Bill Forsyth ( who made early films like That Sinking Feeling or Gregory’s Girl with youthful teams. ) Local heroes.

I want to see young people in Exeter and Brighton and all over the UK given similar opportunities as those in Westminster or Soho.

It’s not all about money, Ben, but an indication of Channel 8’s success (Channel 45 in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland although I hope that will change soon) could be that all the major advertising national sales houses are talking to the local

TV network and in some places we already sell a lot of ads. Brighton for one.

Let’s give democracy a chance Ben. Let’s give young people a chance. Isn’t that what you got into politics for?

MORE ON THIS STORY: 

Tags: 

Sign up for our free weekly digital magazine, Press Gazette Journalism Weekly, and daily newsletter
To contact Press Gazette with a story call 0207 936 6433
or email pged@pressgazette.co.uk
To advertise, please call 0207 936 6764.