Ad industry backs LondonTV Consortium bid for new channel

Leading figures in the advertising industry have come out in support of the LondonTV Consortium local newspaper bid to win the licence to run the new London television station being announced later this month.

The battle is hotting up for the biggest publicly-awarded franchise since Channel 5 in the 1990s which will go on Freeview across London next year as well as globally on satellite, as part of the first round of local TV stations announced by the government.

Fraser Neilson, director of All Response Media, one of the UK’s top 20 ad-buying agencies, warned: “A London TV station has to be realistic about balancing local programming with commercially-orientated entertainment that will bring audiences and enough advertising revenues.

“The LondonTV Consortium appears to be the only one of the five bidders with these criteria allowing another way to reach the expensive London audience.”

The franchise is one of 20 across the country forming the first wave of a new breed of local TV channels the Government promoting.

David Jowett, of the Aegis media and digital communications group, said: “Any credible model for a London TV station has to stand on its own two feet commercially. It is going to have to carry high quality commercial entertainment to attract the sort of audience numbers that gets the attention of media buyers.”

The Consortium includes the three major local newspaper groups, Archant London, Tindle and Trinity Mirror, in partnership with a major entertainment production company.

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It is the only one of the five bidders that the big ad agencies say has “the right commercial model” to make a free public service station work commercially for a global city the size of London—because it can surround its local programming “with world class quality entertainment” to get large enough audiences.

The Consortium’s chief executive, Richard Horwood, said: “The alternative is the wall-to-wall low budget, endless repeats and unwatchable programmes that have characterised local TV in the past and condemned it to commercial oblivion. London deserves better.”

The London channel will have the prominent slot 8 on Freeview next to the BBC, ITV, C4 and Channel 5, and go on satellite on Sky’s slot 17—so it needs to be comparable, the advertising industry warns.

The LondonTV Consortium has a high-quality entertainment schedule planned which would support an ambitious 2,000 hours-a-year of local programming and claims the biggest commitment to news and current affairs of the five bidders. The other bids include what the big ad agencies describe as ‘low budget’ TV.