On Monday 29 September at 6pm, Freeview channel 8 and Virgin Media channel 139 will switch from a testcard to NvTv’s new schedule of programming for Belfast and the surrounding towns. The programmes should be streamed online too.
NvTv will be the first new station in Belfast … since NvTv launched the last time! It previously broadcast as a community TV station from an analogue transmitter for around 4 years until digital switchover ended its run. Jeremy Hunt MP - the then Culture Secretary - championed the revival of community stations on a UK-wide basis, saying that local TV would "offer communities a 'new voice' and provide local perspectives directly relevant to them".
I spoke to Dave Hyndman in Northern Visions at lunchtime today to find out more about the channel and what viewers can expect. A countdown clock in one of the offices noted that there were 60 hours until launch.
Hyperlocal TV is a very different beast to most of the channels we're used to. With a variety of economic models and very limited finance, the programming and genres may be more limited than BBC or UTV - Dave describes their programmes as offering "a lot more room to breath” - but the ambition is unrestrained.
Northern Visions is a non-profit organisation, and its management see themselves as artists rather than media moguls. A portrait of artist Neil Shawcross will be broadcast on the opening night. And NvTv promise to continue their programming with young bands.
"There’s nothing as strong as any programme which people see the people in it and identify with them, they can see them as their friends, their relatives - that has always been our strength." (Dave Hyndman)
With eight local TV stations already launched [at the time of posting], the Birmingham licensee has gone into administration and London Live has recently unsuccessfully asked Ofcom to vary the balance of programming in the schedule they signed up to in their application. [Update - London Live were successful on 8 October in their second bid to Ofcom, and will reduce local programming repeats by 4 hours to just 6 hours a day (from an hour and a half to zero in peaktime).]
Dave is sanguine. While he notes the strong local advertising sales in Nottingham, he also admits that the community TV industry is bound see some changes and licensee swaps as the “experiment” evolves. However, he's confident that Northern Visions have the experience and formats to sustain their channel.
From Monday evening, the viewers can decide.