Newspapers must embrace local TV plans

Your feature last week on ultra-local TV, as planned by the BBC,
shows a frightening ignorance of how broadband is going to transform
modern communication. Sending video is about to become as common as
sending an email, without the need for satellite, cable or analogue
services.

And if newspapers don’t recognise this, and don’t start to compete in the local TV market, they are in trouble.

Already
ITV has followed the BBC by announcing plans for its own ultralocal
services. With digital production, and broadband software, anyone with
a digital camera and a website can now start broadcasting to the world.

Newspapers should see local TV as the next big opportunity – not a threat. If they don’t, new commercial rivals will.

Newspaper
readers understand this new world – they are already using DVD cameras
and editing packages to produce home movies. When big stories break,
where do the best pictures come from? So if Joe Public can do it – why
can’t newspapers? They have newsgathering teams, sales teams and
websites – and brand loyalty – and would be mad to ignore this medium.

Since
I left ITV a year ago I have been working for a software company,
Coull, a broadband streaming specialist, which has developed a range of
simple tools enabling any user to add video to an existing website. Our
first major newspaper client wants to add video to one of its regional
newspaper websites.

By clicking a “Watch Video” icon next to a headline on the website you will also be able to watch moving pictures of the event.

It
takes a couple of hours to train someone to do it, and the costs are
negligible. Once you have the skills and the software, you can move to
a full bulletin service, or a complete television service – if you are
that ambitious – all based on standard PCs. The multi-media newsroom
becomes a reality, producing local TV at a fraction of the cost of
former cable services.

Since ITV is pulling out of regional broadcasting, the commercial potential for local stations will be huge.

While
newspaper sales are falling, website hits are increasing, so by adding
video services to their existing websites, newspapers can promote the
sale of their newspapers and get into the local TV market.

The
current attitude of the Newspaper Society, in objecting to the BBC’s
plans, is absurd. Local TV is going to happen, thanks to broadband,
whether the BBC pioneers it or not.

Newspapers are in a prime position to be involved with it.

Steve
Egginton Former head of ITV News, Bristol, director of the Society of
Editors, editor, Mendip Times and Mendip TV, consultant, Coull Bristol

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