Saturday, 3 March 2012

Viewpoint TV




With all the news about local television pilots it’s a good time to write about a previous government report into local TV which ran in Swindon from the mid 1970’s until the end of the decade. Like many nascent cable companies’ experiments was run from the late 1960’s, the need to create content to attract or retain subscribers to pay 18p a week in an age without multi-channel TV.

The launch of “Swindon Viewpoint” was among the first wave across many towns and cities in Britain and was credited as helping to stem a loss of subscribers after the initial launch of the system.

Swindon was considered an ideal place for such a system on the edge and divided up between two television regions, no local radio and a large number of new residents who it was thought would need information about the local area and amenities. I would also note that high definition is not a new term, in those days it referred to 625 line broadcasts.

With a degree of optimism about the future and financially supported by then owners, Thorne EMI, a small team set up studios in what is now an Indian restaurant at the bottom of Victoria Road. Unlike the proposals the channel ran more than just news including covering the “Miss Thamesdown” contest and bizarrely, a retelling of the passion filmed around Swindon.

Unsurprisingly despite their best efforts viewers brought up only on network TV found the channel a bit amateurish although they appreciated the local news and sport.
With restrictions on advertising such local networks were reliant on subscription revenue and goodwill from owners for whatever reason, willing to sustain the channel which dwindled year on year. By the 1990’s a less restrictive regulatory atmosphere appeared tempting media companies to try again like Associated Newspapers in Bristol and the Guardian Media Group in Manchester. Like their 70’s counterpart’s the revenue was never there and they have either withered or died.

Like the ITV regions the new channels will be given a licence to print money, although unlike the ITV network there probably won’t be popular and occasionally great drama, comedy and entertainment around the news it will probably be shopping, gaming and porn and sadly not a retelling of the passion filmed around Swansea. It may work though to me it looks a doomed exercise in political vanity.

2 comments:

Jenny said...

Wow, that's interesting. I never knew Swindon had tried a local TV channel. We had one in Oxford for a while too, but it withered and died.

I have to say, given the poor quality of the Oxford channel I don't expect these new services to be much good.

Lucy said...

It survived untill the 90's when colsolidation of the cable companies happened and and the remaining staff of 2 were made redundant.