Hours after Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced that Preston would be one of 20 cities piloting hyperlocal television, Ribble TV has revealed that it is planning to bid for the licence.
Headed up by Panorama producer, Jim Booth, it has ambitious plans to produce quality current affairs and entertainment programming for Preston and the surrounding area.
“Central Lancashire is often ignored by the BBC and Granada, unless there’s a major story here, so I’ve always thought that if you market it well enough, there is an opportunity here,” Booth told How-Do.
“I don’t want Ribble TV to be just a community channel, we need production values and to create television that people really want to watch.”
While Preston is the hub of the new broadcast area, the footprint includes Blackpool, the Fylde coast, Chorley, Leyland and Southport.
When asked about financing the station, Booth said that the business model was there:
“We are in talks with one of the London bidders about putting together a family of local companies, so this would give us some additional financial backing. Not only that, but it would mean we could have general interest programming from partners elsewhere in the UK. People often talk about Channel M, but let’s not forget that in the end it did break even and did do some good programming.”
Ribble TV plans to broadcast news, weather and travel in the early evening, with updates throughout the day. There will also be studio debates, football shows and local entertainment, food and property programmes. However, rather than being influenced by local television in Britain, Ribble is looking to America and how it does regional broadcasting.
“If you look at American channels, they promote the station’s anchor, a local face who represents that particular area and there will be some of that here. I want to produce something different from BBC and Granada and I see that being based around this more American model,” he explained.
The team is now “actively pursuing” partners to help with newsgathering on the ground and that could involve deals with local publishers.
Booth plans to leave the BBC next year to concentrate on the bid.