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By Shaun Lowthorpe, Business editor
Thursday, September 20, 2012
Norwich is to be the heart of a TV revolution after Mustard TV won a licence to broadcast local news and programmes to 250,000 viewers living in and around the city.
For more than 160 years, Archant, which publishes your EDP, has been at the centre of local news gathering built on the noble journalistic traditions of its founding fathers here in Norfolk.
Fast forward to September 18, 2012, and a new chapter began in that community news tradition. This time it was on the television screens after Mustard TV, a joint venture between Archant, together with Norwich-based partners Jarrold, Norwich University College of the Arts, and City College Norwich, was awarded the licence by Ofcom to run a new local TV channel based in Norwich.
This part of Britain will now be at the vanguard of an exciting TV revolution, when the new TV channel begins broadcasting its innovative mix of local news and programming from October next year.
Formed from the values which have helped shaped the news pages, Mustard TV will retain that community ethos, but also bring local television to the screen in a way which has not yet been seen before.
Mustard chairman Johnny Hustler, said: “We are delighted to have been given this opportunity to extend the valuable service we have been providing to the people of Norwich and Norfolk for the past 160 years, through our printed and digital publications such as the EDP and Evening News.
“For 160 years, we have excelled at bringing local people local news, and during the last decade we have learned to the do the same through our websites and on mobiles and on tablets. Now, winning this licence gives us an opportunity to hone our video skills and produce fantastic local news and content on the video platform.
“It’s a process of evolution,” he added. “It was a good bid and I pay tribute to my colleagues here. The main thing is that Ofcom trusts our commitment, and they know that Archant will get behind this and make it work. It’s fantastic to be working with firms such as Jarrolds and organisations such as Nuca and City College Norwich; they will bring a lot of skills to it too.
Mr Hustler said that Mustard was part of a “multi-media evolution” for Archant into a business producing newspapers, websites, magazines, as well as social media sites and exhibitions.
And while it would co-exist with the BBC and ITV Anglia, it would have a much greater local focus.
“There’s the BBC and ITV doing the job already and we can co-exist,” he said. “They do a great job reporting news from across the region but they have got relatively short bulletins and it will be so much easier for us to do a better job in Norwich, because our focus is in Norwich.
“We look forward to producing a station which will highlight a wide range of local issues, stimulate well-informed debate and motivate local people to engage.
Mustard managing director Fiona Ryder said the vision was for Mustard to be seen as a community asset and local broadcast service that reflects life and champions community concerns – and gives viewers a new voice.
“We will partner with academic institutions, local businesses and production companies to ensure that Mustard is an authentic local service made by and for the people of Norwich,” she said.
“It’s focus is completely different. We are aiming to provide programming focused exclusively on the Norwich area. We will embrace the community in a way that doesn’t happen at the moment.
“We are working with existing institutions, public bodies and local businesses and it’s very much a service for the people of Norwich.
“The broadcast footprint was determined by Ofcom, but effectively it’s the greater Norwich area and we will reach about 250,000 people within that. Norwich is a centre for tourism, culture and the arts and also a travel-to-work area, and I think it’s really important to focus on that.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity and I am so excited about it. The world has moved on in terms of technology from when Anglia and the BBC first set up. There are the most amazing devices in terms of technology. We are going to be designing and setting up our studio from January, and after that we will be doing test broadcasts later in the year before we go live on digital terrestial television.”
EDP editor Nigel Pickover said the announcement was a “proud day”.
“Our newspapers were formed on the tradition of quality journalism which also brings communities and advertisers together, and Mustard TV will continue that and hold those values and principles dear,” he said.
Dick Palmer, chief executive of the Transforming Education in Norfolk (Ten) Group, said: “It’s fantastic news. We were really proud to involved and to be part of the vanguard of delivering television in this way, and to find out that it’s been successful is brilliant news.
“It’s fantastic for the college and also for the students in our group of colleges, because these young people will have the opportunity to really get involved in local news production and community issues.
“It’s also a great opportunity for local communities to engage and communicate with other people in the patch and find out about what people are doing and thinking.”
John Last, principal of Norwich University College of the Arts, said the new channel would be a great boost to the city’s creative media industries and also help the television producers and journalists of the future here in Norwich.
“It’s really exciting news and we are delighted to be in the partnership,” he said. “It brings people with an interest in the city and the region together.
“We are going to develop a post-graduate degree in television production so that the students can work alongside with Mustard TV and get first-hand experience in a professional context.
“Digital creative industries are high growth and offer high value, and a local production medium will complement the existing businesses and help to focus Norwich as a centre for creative and media industries,” he added.
“There is a definite economic benefit to the sector.”
With a reputation as one of the toughest people in business, many stores would shudder at the thought of getting the Mary Portas treatment.