Estuary TV taken over by company that took £3m of licence payer money
That's TV, the company taking over Estuary TV, has taken £3 million of taxpayers since its creation (Image: Getty Images)
By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 7 Aug 2018
A company that took £3 million worth of licence fee payer money over the course of three years has taken over the local TV licence in Grimsby after the shock closure of Estuary TV.
That's TV, the UK's largest operator of local TV services, will be launching its new station this autumn.
The news comes just days after the Grimsby Institute announced that Estuary TV would be closing, with its entire staff being made redundant, however they will have the opportunity to apply to work at the new station.
The station had come under fire last week after it was revealed that from 2013 to 2016, it received £300,000 of licence fee payers' money, after sending 4,000 news stories, that may never have been used, to the BBC.
Estuary TV announced that it would be shutting down this week, with all members of staff being made redundant (Image: Getty Images)
That's TV operates in 15 service areas across the country, and has 20 different licences, and the potential to broadcast into five million homes.
It was founded under a local TV scheme set up by the government in 2013.
It saw the BBC providing funding support for stations for up to three years from their launch date, giving the corporation the ability to choose to use any stories broadcast by participating channels.
That’s TV chief executive, Daniel Cass, said: “We are excited to be launching That’s TV in North Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire this autumn.
Our schedule will deliver local news every weeknight alongside classic films and series. We are looking forward to working closely with the Grimsby Institute, community groups and advertisers to deliver a strong voice for this region.
That's TV is set to launch in Grimsby in the Autumn
“This acquisition re-affirms That’s TV’s belief in local TV extending our network to 20 licences and over five million homes across the UK.”
However That's TV has also come under fire for "gaming" the BBC out of millions of pounds of licence fee payer money since in creation, according to a Buzzfeed report.
The report, which featured interviews from former staff at the station, said that the That's TV broadcasting schedule relied on one local news bulletin "consisting of between two to four local stories, with the rest filled from across the network" with the remainder of the schedule featuring old black and white TV shows and movies that no longer have copyright.
Some of its stations have seen less that 30 average viewers on a single day, and on one day last year it received just 1,300 viewers across its entire network.
The company has also applied to Ofcom 14 times in the last few years to ask them to relax the amount of local content that its station was required to show, cutting 35.5 hours of local programming a week to just 7.5 hours.
That's TV has applied to Ofcom 14 times to reduce the amount of local content that it is required to show on its stations
One former employee of the station told Buzzfeed: "There was a pattern you could see happening.
"They'd get the licences and then go straight to Ofcom to cut the amount of local programming they needed to show.
"They were just focused on putting to air just the right amount to get the BBC licence money."
Richard Morris, a former Estuary TV journalist now working at BBC Parliament, tweeted that he sent “at least one story a day for 18 months” while he worked there, and that he believed just three of his stories were used on BBC Look North.
He added: “Part of the problem, playing devil’s advocate, is that daily there was a phone call from the BBC to Estuary TV and the two would discuss prospects. Often, if we had a particularly good story, the BBC would just send their own crew anyway.”
That's TV have been paid £3 million of BBC licence fee payer money since it was created
While Dale McEwan, a former employee of That's Solent, which covers Hampshire, claimed that 1,207 stories had been sent to the BBC by the station between November 2014/15, and the BBC used just 114, at a cost of £1,315.79 per story.
However he said that most of the stories sent to the public broadcaster were "unusable" because of a reliance on "over worked staff in poorly resourced newsrooms."
Conservative MP Ed Vaizey had called for the "plug to be pulled" saying that That's TV showed that the local news scheme had "tried and failed".
And Labour’s shadow culture secretary, Tom Watson, said That’s TV’s performance was an embarrassment for the government.
In April Ofcom called for the roll-out of local TV stations to be halted, saying that they were not economically viable
"That’s TV appear to be a rogue trader profiteering off a failed government scheme,” Watson said.
“Rather than getting the quality the public deserve for their licence fee, all they’ve got from this scheme is substandard stories.
"It's an embarrassment for the government and an outrage for licence fee payers."
In total Ofcom have undertaken 11 separate investigations into That's TV stations, and in April of this year the regulator had called for the roll-out of local TV stations to be halted as they were not "economically viable".
On Monday it also announced that it would stop advertising for local TV licences in 13 locations across the UK after failing to attract service providers, essentially pulling the plug on local TV in those areas.
That's TV responded to BuzzFeed News following their article saying: “That’s TV seeks to comply with all of its legal, regulatory and contractual obligations and has continuing dialogue with Ofcom in that respect.
"The company is open and transparent with the BBC and invests all BBC receipts in the provision of its local services. In the spirit of openness and transparency That’s TV sets out the basis for its rolling local news service when applying for licences and has implemented this faithfully.”
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