The news on your doorstep

So today the government is to announce plans to run a series of pilot schemes that will see up to 20 towns and cities with local TV stations.

UK Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has questioned why local television could work in Birmingham, Alabama but not Birmingham in the West Midlands.  Now this textural soundbite may sound great, (he’s picked two places with the same name, did you see what he did there) but in reality is this another example of an American concept that works for them but simply wont work over here.

American local TV according to the recent BBC website news report is ‘Brash’, ‘Energetic’ and ‘Over the top’, doesn’t sound like our sort of thing surely, well perhaps it could be.  We have for years been swooned over how Americans do things, their food, their comedies, their films, their attractions and cities, and the list goes on.  One thing that many people can’t deny is that their TV stations are atrocious, programmes are littered with ad breaks, and presenters are often caught waffling and incoherent by British TV standards. 

So if their TV stations aren’t that great why would something like that work over here.  Well after my weekend covering the Muff March in Harley Street I have come to see where the local TV roving reporter could come into their own.  I think its obvious many of the large TV News stations in the UK are only interested in the large stories, the Muff March which was a protest march against female genital mutilation just wouldn’t have made the ITV London Tonight news, not sexy enough, no coppers duffing up protestors, no celebrities opening envelopes.

Can this idea from across the pond work for us, I think the answer could be yes.  If we are able to maintain the our news casting integrity and not succumb to the glitz and glamour that American culture so wonderfully encapsulates.  Would it enrich our towns and cities, again I think the answer is yes, allowing smaller grassroots projects and stories to make it to a wider audience. 

However I feel that for this to be a success it must be afforded the freedom to operate in its own way, Local TV will never be able to compete on the big news stories with the big boys of TV news media, but where they could excel is on local stories as the name suggests, eventually they could take on regional news, which often comes across as an underinflated version of the national news, especially here in London.

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The usual suspects or ‘How not to spot a protestor’

Another week, another protest.  This time the Campaign for Climate Change demonstration in Central London.  I did the research, printed maps of the demo route and made my way down to the tube to get to the start of the protest at Blackfriers Bridge.

The stuff about the group I had printed off the net stated that the demo was going to be made up by Buddists, members of the Occupy London movement and Climate Change supporters.

‘Mmm, Buddists, Occupy and Climate Change, I can see how that works’  I thought.

At the tube, I made my way down to the platform, it was very quiet, well it was cold and who would want to go out in the cold if they didnt have to?  As the train pulled up, people on the platform started to get up and make their way to the ‘mind the gap’ text stencilled on the platform edge, the doors slide open and few people got off and about 20 people from the platform and I got on.

I carried on thinking about the protest, then my mind started to drift, my eyes started to wonder up the carriage.  ‘I wonder if there are any protestors on this train?’

The nearest woman to me was blonde, short hair, glasses.  She also had a feather earring in one ear, her clothes were baggy and tie dyed.  ‘Definate hippy’, I thought.  The climate change connection, it all added up.  ‘If she gets off at my stop, she definately a protestor.’  Then she got off, 4 stops before me. 

I carried on looking around the carriage, for other potential protestors.  Then I spotted two lads at the end of the carriage, both were a bit shifty looking.  Both with short hair, and wearing cold weather walking style jackets that were a bit shabby, the perfect clothing for someone staying out all night, perhaps at the Occupy London Stock Exchange protest at St Pauls cathedral.  One of them also had a shifty stare, he seemed to be staring at me for ages.  I began to feel quite self concious, they looked like they were getting ready to get off the tube, again a few stops too early, bugger.   Then the penny dropped, he wasn’t staring.  As the doors opened I saw his white cane lock out into postion. 

Okay so two failures one more stop, but there didn’t seem to be anyone else left.  Or nobody obvious it seemed, a few shop workers in uniform, couple of people in suits, some tourists with guide books and a few white haired granny types.  I give up, it was a silly game, but they (the protestors) seem so easy to spot when at a protest (the banners help), why not so easy when they are with non protestors?  Perhaps there just weren’t any in that carriage with me.

The tube pulled into the station, and as I got ready to step off, a wrinkled hand belonging to a white haired granny grabbed me, ‘Excuse me can you tell us how to get to Blackfriers Bridge, were going to a protest.’

Here are some of my pictures from the protest march:

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National Strike Day +1

It was billed as the biggest national strike for decades.  Public sector worker from across the country were to walk out at midnight in strike over pension changes being imposed by the government.  Many other protest groups had also decided to jump on the bandwagon and protest against bankers and other such things they found unjust.


So I was up early Wednesday morning for my first picket to photograph (up at 6am, it hurt), and I was a little stunned to see 8 people on the picket line at the HMRC offices at Triton Square in London.  My immediate thought was ‘what the f**k!’.  I had got up early for this, and I was intent to get some good pictures.  Just 8 people stood outside of their office, it all seemed a little silly as the office was closed, not just closed due to the strike, it was completely shut, no light on , noone moving around, so why stand out there.


So a little dissappointed off I went to the next picket, just 2 people this time.  Was this some kind of joke that nobody told me about?  Okay, I thought, there are loads of picket lines everywhere Ill just find a bigger one, afterall there was supposed to be 2-3 millions people on strike across the country.  Living in London surely many of them would be in the capital.


Around the corner, University College Hospital (UCH), 12 people.  One of the strikers said, ‘you might want to come back in half an hour.’  ‘Thanks’ I said.


Out of dispair I started to roam the streets looking for larger groups of people, eventually the UCH had around 80 people on strike.  Now I could have gone to the big planned march, but I hadn’t planned for that and was a little surprised at the lack of strikers out.


It made me think back to the miners strikes of the 80’s, now I was only a child during this period of turmoil but I remember large groups of pickets, strikers would stay out all night, and the battle with the government almost brought it to its knees and destroyed the homes, families, lives and communities of many miners.


What was I witness to, a new kind of strike?  A strike where just a few people outside a building is enough to get the message across.  If this is the case and numbers are not important then why could the teachers that went on strike not act as child care on the day of the strike, thus saving mums and dads much needed cash.  They didn’t have to teach the kids, just have them in the building. 


All in all it was a strange day, I do hope that the public sector workers get what they deserve for the hard work that they do (to which I take my hat off to them).  And I hope that another strike can be averted.  If there is another strike, I think I will spend it in bed.


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