Lukewarm reception for local TV

October 01, 2010, 7:21 PM GMT+0

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s plans for local TV stations have provoked a mixed response from the British public, our survey reveals.

  • 29% of the British population support the idea of setting up local TV stations
  • Compared to 31% who oppose it, and a further 28% who neither support nor oppose the idea.

Hunt recently outlined plans for local TV stations that would broadcast for as little as one hour per day, with the aim of opening up reporting on local issues and challenging the London-centric approach to public broadcasting. However, critics argue that the cost of local stations would be high, and Hunt already faces criticism over proposed budget cuts to organisations such as Welsh channel S4/C.

In a separate survey, we asked more than 500 of our panellists for their opinions on the plans for local TV.

It seems many respondents simply don’t see the point.

  • ‘We already have good local TV from the BBC and ITV, and can get any extra depth from the internet and local newspaper,’ one person observed, while another said that ‘already existing facilities such as radio studios and the internet should be used more efficiently.’

The financing of the proposed TV stations emerged as a key point of contention among respondents.

  • ‘I would be happy for self-funded local stations to exist, but in this time of austerity it would be frivolous for them to be state-funded, as other services need the money more,’ argued one respondent.
  • Another described the plans as ‘a complete and utter waste of money when Jeremy Hunt is determined to make cuts to bodies and organisations that bring in a net tax profit (such as the UK Film Council).’
  • Other respondents commented that ‘the content would not justify the cost,’ and that ‘wasting money on a hare-brained scheme is wrong when people are losing their jobs all over the country.’

Others felt more optimistic about the plans.

  • One spoke for many when they explained, ‘I like the concept of independent local TV ... [because] the UK’s local coverage is limited to ‘crumbs’ from national broadcasters,’
  • While another enthused ‘A brilliant idea ... Work experience and apprenticeships [with local stations] would benefit education and work opportunities for young people,’ while another respondent agreed that they ‘would like to see local talent – local bands, theatre, quiz or panel shows, all with local people.’

But despite Hunt’s claims that local media will help ‘strengthen local democracy’, many critics remain unconvinced, suggesting he will have a long struggle to persuade people that this plan is worth its share of dwindling public money.

Survey details and full results