The Local Wars

All news is local…..

In 2004, on the heels of 5 years with the BBC, we started on a second project.

Hyperlocal news.

The test base was Birmingham, England, and we built 5 ‘hyperlocal news pods” in 5 Birmingham regions.

Each was staffed with 6 videojournalists. The idea was that they would produce extremely local stories, of extremely local interest. A bit like BBC’s very successful local radio. Interestingly, 25% of the content was garnered from local ‘Citizen journalists” with video cameras.

The pilot project ran for two years.

Here in the US, we migrated the model to Verizon, where we are now in our second year in the pilot project in Washington DC. So far, so good.

In Britain, they are now ready to move to roll out a national model: 65 Hyperlocal pods with 65 separate websites.  And why not? The Pods are inexpensive to build and run and websites cost next to nothing.  It’s a good idea.

It’s so good an idea that local newspapers are feeling the heat and bringing pressure on Ofcom – the UK’s equivalent of the FCC, to kill the project before it can get started.

BBC Trust Chairman Michael Lyons said:

Lyons said the “rising noise and anxiety” from the BBC’s commercial rivals about the corporation’s video plans was understandable given the economic pressures they faced, but warned that calls to “bring the BBC down to size” risked causing “fundamental damage”.

“There’s nobody who can be satisfied with the quality of local news in most parts of the United Kingdom,” Lyons told a Broadcasting Press Guild lunch in London this afternoon.

“The local press has nothing like the strength that it once had. It’s not the same proposition that it was 15 years ago. Will the BBC make it better or worse? That’s exactly the issue to be explored.”

It’s a good idea. It’s extremely cost effective.  We found that the Birmingham model can produce high quality local video news at about $2000 per half hour.  And this is not public access. This is BBC standards of quality and excellence, both journalistically and technically.

This is TV news done at the price point of a newspaper. So it is no wonder that newspapers are worried. And they should be – or they should embrace the same technology to go head to head with the beeb.

A decision will be announced November 27th.

Here’s the whole story

And a tip o’ the hat to reader Alan Morrison in NZ, to clued me into the story. Thanks Alan.


8 responses to “The Local Wars

  1. 65 different web sites?

    I’d be interested to hear how they plan to generate any kind of real revenue with so many diverse web locations.

    I’m not saying it’s impossible.

    But they don’t seem to talk to much about return on investment revenue in the article.

    Is there a serious business model being applied to this or something that’s not ever intended to make a stand-alone profit?

  2. What amazes me is that Europe “Gets It” while Corporate MSNM here in the states doesn’t – refusing to acknowledge the inevitable – preferring to do the proverbial Ostrich bury their head in the sand analogy.

    If we don’t see it happening – then it doesn’t exist.

    Interesting times we live in for this profession.

  3. Of course, this is the BBC, so they don’t generate any revenue. Their income comes for license fees that everyone in the UK pays. The BBC is non-commercial. Their only mandate is to serve the needs of their viewers.

  4. Their (BBC’s) only mandate is to serve the needs of their viewers.

    Something that is clearly evident to NOT occurring here in this country.

  5. I guess the way the BBC is run is the exact reason the VJ revolution has not made the same inroads on this side of the pond.

    A government subsidized operation does not have to run the same as a business in a free market economy.

    Maybe you should try and sell the VJ concept to PBS?

    They or some other US government funded operation, maybe like TV Marti, seem prime targets for you.

    Yes, Cliff, in this case the only reason Europe “gets this” in the case of the BBC, is because they don’t have to truly compete.

    It doesn’t matter how long it takes for them to get things done.

    They get their money no matter what.

    In some ways, for Obama fans, the BBC is your dream tv operation!

  6. If only Obama could deliver to the US journalism of the depth and quality of the BBC! That would be something worth voting for.

    The difference between the application of this approach in Europe and in the US is that in Europe many state broadcasters such as ARD or Dutch Public Television , like the BBC, are primarily concerned with quality and journalism. They have done very well with this. In the US, almost every broadcaster who has adapted this has done so to cut costs alone. This is a mistake. Maybe also an insight into why our financial system is such a mess. Very short sighted.

  7. Personally I don’t have a problem with VJ’s doing hyper local news. It’s a very small viewer-ship needing a cheap option for a cheap product… that’s not a cheap shot its just reality… it has to be cheap to get done at that low level.
    I don’t see hyper local as a threat to local TV news more as a training ground and a feeder with better stories being picked up… probably needing to be totally re-shot 🙂
    More worried should be small papers and local radio and looking at all the articles they are worried.
    Too me they should worry less about what the BBC is doing public funderd or not and have a look at their own content. Every time I open the paper nowadays it seems there are more ad’s and less content and very few stories I can bring myself to care about.
    Maybe the print industry decline is less to do with the internet/competition and more to do with the cost cutting and subsequent decline in quality?
    If they had something worth reading then they would have nothing to fear from VJ/home video?

  8. Let me be clear.

    I don’t have a problem either with the VJ thing other than some thinking, somehow, it is “better” in all cases.

    There are times VJ fit the bill.

    As Mr. Rosenblum affirmed it may be simple economics.

    Or it may be a single person with a small camera can get somehwhere that larger crews/equipment can’t due to environmental or security concerns.

    As far as a career, all or nothing option?

    It has some weak points that have yet to be overcome.

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