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LONDON – London’s first local broadcast channel, London Live, is launching Monday evening amid much anticipation from media industry folks and observers.
It has the backing of the owner of The Independent and London’s Evening Standard, which has been looking to diversify beyond its newspaper business.
The channel will air 24/7, hoping to provide a local rival to U.K. public broadcaster BBC, commercial networks operator ITV and pay TV giant BSkyB, in which Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox owns a 39 percent stake, with programming built around five and a half hours of news.
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The Guardian on Monday called the channel launch Britain’s biggest since Channel 5’s debut in 1997. London Live has the potential to reach 9 million people.
U.K. media regulator Ofcom had in 2012 received bids from five groups, including some backed by well-known industry figures and brands, to run the local TV channel in London. Among the groups were some that included news provider Independent Television News (ITN), Time Out, as well as Channel 6 and former chairmen of broadcaster Channel 4 and the BBC Trust. One of the unsuccessful bidders had teamed with Sony Corp.’s Sony Pictures Television Networks, which would have served as a program provider and creative services partner.
The five London bids were part of a total number of 57 proposals for local TV offers in 21 metropolitan areas across the U.K., including in such cities as Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Most proposed or launched channels have been set to include news and weather, entertainment and sports programming.
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“London’s a great city that has so much to offer as far as culture, art, theater, music, sport,” the Guardian quoted London Live backer Evgeny Lebedev, owner of the Independent and Evening Standard, as telling the BBC. “We’ve tried to create a channel that is completely different from all the other channels. And the way we are different is, unlike taking well-known names and celebrities and just putting them on the channel, we’ve tried to create a launch pad for new talent.”
The Russian-born media mogul has lived in London since he was 8. He told the Guardian that he would not get involved in the editorial running of the channel. “It will have its own editors, and they will decide its editorial line,” he said.
Said Stefano Hatfield, editorial director of London Live: “Cities like New York and Toronto have dedicated TV channels; many cities do. It is crazy that London hasn’t before now. There are so many stories in the capital, and broadcasters like ITV and the BBC just don’t have the time to do them all properly.”
The channel launches at 6:30 p.m. local time with half-hour show London Go, which is described as an arts, entertainment and “going out” show, followed by 7 p.m. nightly news and magazine show Not the One Show. It goes up against BBC magazine show The One Show.
The channel airs from two studios in the Kensington offices of the Independent and Evening Standard.
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