Guardian Media Group to relaunch Channel M

Guardian Media Group is planning to relaunch its regional television station Channel M next spring with a range of new programming.

The Manchester-based station is expected to return to original programme-making a year after it was mothballed by GMG after it failed to find a buyer for the service.

John Furlong, the new channel controller of Channel M, told the Local Television conference at City University on Friday the broadcasting strategy was yet to be finalised but the channel would focus on original news broadcasting.

‘I have good news, we are planning to relaunch Channel M in the spring of next year,’he said.

‘Channel M is currently in a holding pattern where we are playing out repeats, free content and student content and that’s not where we want to be in four or five months time.

‘We are putting plans together now for what the channel will look like in say May, 2011.”

The future of Channel M looked bleak after GMG failed to convince Trinity Mirror to take on the station when it bought the company’s regional newspaper division the previous month.

Some 29 out of the 33 staff were then cut by GMG in March as it ended production of original programming and mothballed the station after being unable to find an alterative buyer.

GMG has now transferred control of the station to its regional radio station division ahead of the relaunch.

Furlong joined GMG two months ago from Ofcom, where he worked in commercial policy, to take control of the station’s revamp.

The new-look channel will focus on producing original content in primetime, Furlong later told Press Gazette, and would look to carry community programming, student content and local political shows during the daytime.

‘We are very positive and excited about the potential of Channel M. It’s a business and we need to made money but we don’t expect to make extraordinary revenues from it,’he told the forum.

‘The past experience of Channel M wasn’t all negative we have got a few things from the cost base and the way things were set up and the scale and ambition of the old Channel M.”

Furlong said news broadcasting would be the key element of the new-look Channel M.

‘We are very fortunate that we have got a radio news hub in the same building as us who are extremely supportive and are very keen to get stuff on TV. We are equipping their journalists with cameras and they will be gathering video for us.”

The focus would be on programming that served only Greater Manchester, Furlong said, as such Channel M will carry a ‘simple news operation’which would run five-minute bulletins through the day and look for a range of local partnerships to feed video content to the channel.

‘We are not basing our whole funding on advertising and sponsorship. We have got other means to draw revenue in,’he added.

Asked if that meant selling off part of the Greater Manchester digital terrestrial television spectrum that it owns to other businesses interested in running Freeview channels in the region, Furlong said GMG expected to draw some revenue that way.

‘We have a bunch of DTT spectrums, more than we can use for Channel M.”

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