Channel M job losses 

28 April 2009 tbs.pm/1047

Local TV hasn’t exactly had a particularly good start in the UK. Failed station followed failed station. Small scale ventures have risen in high profile, only to shatter not long after. Ofcom has a list of the stations, however several have never even launched.

The problems for the local TV stations are multiple. They’re all on analogue for starters so they have to break into the viewing habits of those analogue viewers who are retrenched in just five stations, or alternatively persuade people to turn off their digital box and go back to analogue!

Then there’s the budgets – these are low cost operations in a market full of high scale stations.

Then there’s the transmission areas. They’re rarely sited on big cities – there’s no stations for London, Birmingham, Leeds, Glasgow, or Edinburgh for example. Belfast has one, however when it comes to population, that’s not a particularly large place. Instead they’re in places like Oxford, Leicester, Reading.

There’s no deep pockets either. They’re almost all owned by small companies so when times go bad, there’s problems.

In the midst of all this there’s one exception. Channel M is in a big city, broadcasting to the Manchester/Salford conurbation, which in population terms is one of the largest centres in the UK.

It’s owned by MEN Group – the publishers of the Manchester Evening News and countless other local newspapers – who are, in turn, owned by the Guardian Media Group.

They have the digital coverage – they’re on Sky and they’ve got a licence to broadcast on Freeview.

And the programming is almost entirely homemade. No endless playing of the Gillette World of Sport at all.

So if anyone can make local TV work, it’s Channel M.

Unfortunately Channel M loses about £200,000 a week, and has just announced plans to make more than half the staff redundant.

Live programming will be cut, the schedule scaled back.

Apparently the company still believe there’s a great future for local TV. But if Channel M – the station with the most potential of all local TV stations – is struggling, what does the future hold for less well equipped channels?

A member of the Transdiffusion Broadcasting System
Liverpool, Saturday 1 October 2022