Local TV. Who Is Going To End The Suffering And Pull The Plug On These Pointless, Expensive Pet Projects?

Local media is in tatters -- again. And it's only the politicians who seemed surprised. The decline of local print has long since been reported on -- but many, including former Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, believed that local television would pick up the slack. Instead of occasional regional news bulletins, small-scale stations devoted to a single town or city would be the way of the future.

Several problems exist there. Well, actually, they pretty much add up to one major one. If you have to throw money at a section of the media to give it a chance to launch, you have your answer up front as to how successful it's going to be. So it came to pass that -- as reported by The Guardian -- the BBC Trust is holding back GBP25m that was due to cover the cost of transmitting new local television stations in Middlesborough, Cambridge and York. The reason? Alleged financial impropriety and boardroom troubles at Comux, which builds and manages the infrastructure behind the channels. 

It may well be a moot point, but I'd wonder at the sanity of officials handing out millions to launch commercially unviable stations. If you're reading this, BBC Trust, please send me a few quid to launch a local television station that I'll close in a couple of months after nobody's watched it. I'll happily write a 'thanks for the support loyal fans' tweet from my villa in the Seychelles when it all hits the fan.

The proof of the proverbial pudding is provided by the poster child of local television, London Live. Its Editorial Director, Stefano Hatfield, has just departed following viewing figures that average between 2,000 to 4,000 viewers for its flagship morning and early evening news and topical discussion shows. 

So if The Evening Standard's channel -- backed to the hilt by a rich owners and available on satellite, Freeview and cable -- can't make a go of it, it begs the question, who can? Truth is, this whole areas is one of pet projects and as everyone in business knows, pet projects are time consuming and very expensive. They take a long while for someone who had been hugely successful elsewhere to realise they've backed the wrong horse and normally requires a trusted advisor or two to grow a pair and point out the obvious. That is, unless you're the one selling the shovels and spades in this mini gold rush and the government is paying you to dig a few mines. Then, Jeremy Hunt's pet project becomes a nice little earner, while it lasts.

As for the licence fee payer? You can rejoice in spending millions on channels nobody gives a tinker's cuss about and which will fold quicker than Superman on laundry day.

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