Misc

Time to shed a little more light into the darkening gloom of Local TV; time for the Ranters and the Ravers to gather again at #1000flowers…


In November, 2010, I hosted a conference on the future of Local ‘TV’ in Norwich. It was called #1000flowers.

A day later, Will Perrin of TalkAboutLocal and I would share a stage at City University as the great and the London good staged a rather grander debate about the future of local television in the UK.

We were two dissenting voices – who didn’t ‘get’ how, in this digital age, the future of local television in this country would be wholly governed by the need to deliver said ‘local’ service into the same, square box that’s sat in the same corner of every living room for the last 40-odd years – and all from the same 300-foot high transmitter mast.

A third was that of Claire Enders; she appeared to doubt whether the word ‘ubiquity’ meant anything to anyone within the corridors of broadcasting power.

It was if the world had stopped turning in 1988; as if the Web had never happened; as if Steve Jobs had never been born.

Two years on and #1000flowers is returning – to the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers in Newcastle on Tuesday, March 5th.

It has a rich history when it comes to shedding a little light into the darker corners of peoples’ thinking.

George Stephenson is one of its most famous forebears; his ‘Geordie Lamp’ would become standard issue in the pits of the North-East – as opposed to the ‘Davy Lamp’ of elsewhere. It is a fascinating story of how the two lamps came to occupy the same market-place within months of eachother; of how Stephenson’s peers refused to believe that someone so ‘uneducated’ and local could possibly come up with a solution to rival that of the eminent Cornish scientist Humphry Davy. Indeed, the Royal Society would accuse Stephenson of stealing the idea of the ‘Davy Lamp’.

‘The experience gave Stephenson a lifelong distrust of London-based, theoretical, scientific experts.[2]…’

A perfect venue, therefore, to cast continuing doubt on whether our London-based ‘experts’ at OfCom and DCMS *really* know what they are doing as Mold [pop: 12,000] gears up to accept its Local TV licence as the likes of Portsmouth and Sunderland, Derby and Ipswich wonder if they are, at best, destined to watch their ‘local’ TV from Southampton and Newcastle, Nottingham and Norwich.

It is not often on these pages that I sit, read and nod in agreement with The Daily Mail. But this is fascinating: ‘How the tablet is taking over from the TV: BBC reveals record iPlayer figures for mobile devices…’

‘Record numbers of people are abandoning their living room TV set to watch shows on their phone, tablet and laptop…

‘BBC bosses said the biggest trend in 2012 was the huge growth in iPlayer requests from mobiles and tablets which almost trebled…

[Interestingly, a trend that the editor of BBC News Online, Steve Herrmann, would bear out when he spoke at the DigiCity event at the BBC Mailbox in Birmingham earlier this week.]

The Mail even finds an expert of their own. ‘Dominic Baliszewski, telecoms expert at broadbandchoices.co.uk, said: ‘It’s not surprising that the old-fashioned television is losing its crown as king of the living room.

‘With so many different ways for people to view films and programmes over a broadband connection, modern devices such as tablets allow viewers far more flexibility to choose where and when they watch their favourite shows…’

And there’s the line: ‘…for people to view films and programmes over a broadband connection…’ No mention of a TV transmitter.

As many of you may be aware, for the last 6-7 months we have been working with NESTA’s DestinationLocal programme to deliver a ’21st Century Village Correspondent’ to the village of Loddon, Norfolk.

Within the next 2-3 weeks, the first ‘plank’ of that plan will arrive as WiSpire deliver higher speed broadband to the top of Holy Trinity Church. From there, we connect up a series of wifi ‘relays’ which delivers public wifi over the heart of that one village. In effect, the church tower becomes our ‘TV’ transmitter as we deliver local and national video content into mobile and tablet. Alongside the usual written content of Ben’s LoddonEye platform.

Simples. And we think like a network. Potentially, rolling out one parish at a time if we get our advertising numbers to stack.

Someone within the Diocese of Norwich clearly gets what a network looks like. And having sat and listened to the BT/BDUK vision of a broadband ‘network’ for his rural flock as part of the House of Lords Communications Committee last autumn, I think that same person – a bit like George Stephenson – is a little distrusting of London-based ‘experts’ and their answers to the challenges of our times.

Dissenting folk, in short.

The Ranters and the Ravers, the Diggers from the hills of Lancashire … Those are to whom I hope #1000flowers will continue to appeal.

People who don’t see their children’s digital futures tied to either a copper wire or a TV transmitter mast; who believe – along with Eric Schmidt – that the winning platforms of the future will be ‘local, mobile and social…’

And there’s one other person – or peoples – to whom I will extend an invite. Someone who long ago tied their broadcasting fortunes to local and mobile. And raised their flag in the North-East. And are busily putting a new model army of mobile journalists into the field.

They, too, get this space. Hopefully, they will join us far from the madding London crowds.

As, hopefully, will a few of you…

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