Lockdown boosts traffic for Montgomery's Local TV as That's TV cuts news content

Former national newspaper editor David Montgomery’s Local TV network grew its viewership by 61% year-on-year during the Covid-19 lockdown, it has claimed.

The local news and information network, which broadcasts on Channel 7 in eight regions in England and Wales, now claims a daily average audience of 308,000.

It said its Leeds channel’s viewership grew by 92% year-on-year in the second quarter of 2020 while Cardiff TV grew by 82% and Birmingham TV was up 62%.

It said it had kept up a full service throughout the pandemic unlike other broadcasters, including the BBC which cut some local and national programming.

Chief executive Lesley Mackenzie said: “The audience growth is a testimony to our commitment to our local cities and regions. We are proud of our colleagues who despite personal risk at the height of lockdown dedicated themselves to keeping viewers informed.”

Former News of the World editor and Local World boss Montgomery, who is now eyeing up newspaper acquisitions under his new company National World, added: “Local TV is leading the process of leveling up TV media.

“For too long the London based national channels have ignored our great cities, all with a unique character, that make such a significant contribution to all aspects of life, culture and sport.”

Local TV also broadcasts in Bristol, Liverpool, North Wales, Teesside, and Tyne and Wear.

Many broadcasters have reached record audiences since the Covid-19 pandemic hit the UK, meeting a “staggering demand” for trusted news.

Meanwhile That’s TV, the biggest operator of local TV licences in the UK, has just received permission from Ofcom to cut down the amount of locally-created news it is required to air on some of its channels.

The broadcast regulator allowed the network to remove requirements to provide news and current affairs output produced in the licensed area for each of Aberdeen, Ayr and Dundee.

New licence requirements state that the services should “reflect the tastes, interests and concerns of people living or working in and around the licensed area” and “include a core local news service relevant to the licensed area”.

Ofcom said these stipulations would “ensure that each of the services in question continues to be under an obligation to provide content about the local area it serves”.

Ofcom also said viewers should “notice little or no change” in the content on each of these three channels because the proposals follow smoothly from permission granted last year for That’s TV to produce content from fewer regional studios. For example, all content for the Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh are now produced in the latter city.

A further request to get rid of a requirement for repeated news and current affairs output and other local programming in Cambridge was granted because, Ofcom said, “while repeated content allows viewers to ‘catch up’ on the local content provided by a service and therefore has a role in defining the character of that service, this is likely to be less important and have less of an impact than the provision of an acceptable amount of first-run local programming, both in peak-time and across the service as a whole”.

Radio stations will find it harder to boast about their audience figures for the foreseeable future as RAJAR has said it will not publish new data possibly until next year after its face-to-face survey methodology had to be put on hold due to lockdown and social distancing.

It said it is working on introducing a new system “as soon as is practical” but that until it gets a new measurement system going, the numbers it publishes will be based on “historical data incorporating revised census population information”.

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