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Author: News Letter -
Published on 11 August 2011 08:30 AM

Plans to introduce three new television channels to Northern Ireland has received a mixed response from the potential viewing public in the north-west of the province.

On Tuesday, the government confirmed that 65 locations across the UK are being considered for the new local TV services.

Under the proposals, Belfast could have its own channel, while another channel in Limavady would cover parts of Ballymoney and Coleraine, with a third channel dedicated to Londonderry.

Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt said the additional stations – which will be publicly funded – would signal a “fundamental change in how people get information about their own communities, and how they hold their representatives to account”.

“There’s a huge appetite for local news and information in communities the length and breadth of the country,” Mr Hunt added.

“I want people to be able to watch television that’s relevant to them,” he added.

On the streets of Ballymoney yesterday opinions were divided on what programmes should be broadcast on the new stations, while others questioned whether there was any need at all for an alternative to the current local broadcasters, UTV and BBC Northern Ireland.

“To be honest, I think we have enough television channels to choose from as it is,” said Susan Crawford, from Ballymoney.

“I cannot see the need for it – we have BBC and UTV and we also have local radio stations and newspapers, so I think we are well enough covered as it is.

“I suppose it could be used to highlight local events and sport, but it could also be too much focus here and make some serious situations even worse. I wouldn’t be in favour of it,” she added.

But Christine and Harry McKnight, who moved from Bristol in England to Ballymoney 12 years ago, believe the move would have a great benefit to the local community.

“Over in Bristol we had a local TV channel, and it was really brilliant,” Christine said.

“The programmes had a real relevance for local people and it was a great way to find out about things happening in your area, which you would never have known about,” she added.

The couple said they would like to see coverage of the burgeoning bowling scene in Ballymoney and tea-dances on the new local channel.

Among the younger of the would-be viewers, Hannah Ross and Judith McConaghy – who were taking part in the Christian outreach initiative SPARK – were full of enthusiasm.

“That’s a brilliant idea,” Hannah said.

“My sister and I make our own films, so maybe we could get to work for this new channel, it would be great to get young people who are creative involved.”

Judith said she didn’t want to see any “cheesy” or “cringey” local programmes, but put forward local Elvis impersonator Billy Murphy as a potential presenter for ‘Ballymoney TV’.

Coleraine man Alan Thompson, who was shopping in Ballymoney, gave his backing to the new channel.

“There are lots, and lots of digital channels now, but it is very hard to find anything local on them, so there is a gap there,” he said.

“As a fan of photography, I personally would like to see more programmes on local arts and crafts.

“A new channel would be a brilliant opportunity to televise local sporting matches, football, rugby and GAA.

“There’s a lot more to Coleraine and this whole area than just the North West 200 and the Milk Cup, we have more than enough stuff for a new channel.”

According to government figures, the stations could be run on a budget of £500,000 a year.

Each of the 65 areas will now be asked to make the case for why their town should be among those awarded a licence by Ofcom, with the first wave due next year.

The government is also canvassing opinion from potential operators about which locations are likely to make the scheme a success.

For more information: Call Age NI Advice: 0808 808 7575