The Birmingham Media Story and YourTV

YourTV logoFollowing the Government’s announcement of its plans to create a tier of local television stations, YourTV has already announced its intention to apply for the local television licence in Birmingham.

As more and more media production leaves Birmingham, YourTV Birmingham aims to redress the balance by giving the city its own local television station, made by and for local people.

It is a sad fact, but Birmingham has reached a crossroads as a major broadcasting city. It is being deserted by both the BBC and ITV as broadcast media in the city is being generally wound down and relocated elsewhere. Most of the local commercial radio stations now have the majority of their programming coming from London. The development of Manchester as a media centre to compete with London is in its final stages. Recently, Peter Salmon, head of the BBC in the North, even claimed that programmes would be better made in Manchester! Sadly, BBC local radio and TV in Birmingham is being reined in. Audiences will soon see how the cost of the unnecessary move to Manchester has brutally affected the whole network.

All this means that Birmingham, the UK’s second city, is in a fight for survival as a major broadcast location. At least Orion Media has a local operational base with BRMB and its other Midlands radio services, although there is precious little else to celebrate.

When I first came to Birmingham in 1978 as Ed Doolan’s producer at BRMB, the city was a vibrant media area. The Broad Street studios of ATV produced a whole host of national favourites for the ITV network. Birmingham’s status was further enhanced in 1981 with the creation of Central TV and the increase in local programme production. The BBC regional centre at Pebble Mill became a legend in its own lunchtime, and a huge range of other radio and television programmes were produced from the city – the list was massive and counts some of the most well-loved and widely-watched programmes in broadcasting history.

Sadly, for some reason, the BBC has slowly but surely dismantled its Birmingham broadcast base over the last 20 years. Pebble Mill was allowed to run down and was then demolished. Production began to steadily drain away from the city to other locations like Cardiff, Bristol and of course Manchester. Maybe the corporation has something against Birmingham? After all, there is the widely-told anecdote of a previous Director General hearing a “local accent” on a Birmingham radio service and demanding to know who was responsible for allowing it on the airwaves!

Sometimes I wonder if some of the great BBC pioneers of broadcasting in Birmingham created too strong a message for the city. Pioneers like Percy and Barry Edgar, not to mention more recent heroes of regional broadcasting like Jock Gallagher and Phil Sidey, were powerful voices for Birmingham. Many of us were aware at the time of the internal battles they had with London to maintain Birmingham’s presence as a broadcasting hub.

ITV Central had other issues to face with the eventual nationalisation of Independent Television in this country – a move that also damaged Birmingham’s credibility as a media town. Today only Central News is produced in Birmingham but its content is regional.

I’m writing a book to celebrate 75 years of media in Birmingham for the Television and Radio Industries Club, and it makes you want to weep when you read of the magnificent efforts over the years to create and produce great programmes in Birmingham, now being laid waste by the new cultural barbarians. What of the young, talented broadcasters coming out of Birmingham colleges and universities? What do they do – leave the city?

So is YourTV Birmingham a panacea to right all these wrongs? Our dream is to utilise the creative talent of all ages to provide content for our programmes. Already we have the contacts that are bursting to show their televisual talent and local knowledge. On screen we will be professionally driven, unpredictable at times, off the cuff perhaps but always worth seeing. We can bring some little piece of challenging media back to Birmingham and restored the battered broadcasting pride of our city.

Some argue that the economics don’t work for the new tier of local television services, but YourTV Birmingham will be part of a larger organisation utilising the same model in other cities, providing a sound financial backing and operational base that will encourage great programme making and creativity at a local level once again.

YourTV isn’t a complete answer to the despicable desertion of Birmingham as a media centre, however we can bring back pride, commitment and great television to the city covering all aspects of life – music, arts, news and community. This maybe the only real local television we will ever have and we at YourTV Birmingham have the passion to make it work!

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  • Tom Ross

    Go for it Mike- the more local the better

  • Johntaylor

    this is what we need mike i’m sure a lot of support will be forth coming