Festival Square giant TV screen to be axed

Crowds pack into Festival Square to watch Andy Murray at Wimbledon. Picture: Jane Barlow
Crowds pack into Festival Square to watch Andy Murray at Wimbledon. Picture: Jane Barlow
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THE plug is being pulled on Edinburgh’s giant TV, with the screen set to come down next month due to high maintenance costs and lack of ­interest.

The BBC is ending the contract that has allowed events like Wimbledon and last year’s London Olympics to be shown on the Festival Square screen at no cost to the city council.

The local authority is not willing to continue picking up the £26,000-a-year power and maintenance bill, meaning the screen’s days are numbered.

City culture and sport convener Councillor Richard Lewis said the climate and the site’s location just outside the main city centre meant it had 
battled to attract large groups of ­viewers.

He said it was a shame it would stop running before next year’s Commonwealth Games, but added: “Outside of a handful of events, it was hardly the happening place to be.”

The screen was paid for by the BBC but the cost of its upkeep was met by the council and since it was installed in 2009 there have been demands to switch it off.

It was originally hoped that the screen would be used for live sport, coverage of the city’s festivals and other local events before showing live coverage of the London Olympics in 2012. With the exception of once-in-a-generation events such as Andy Murray’s Wimbledon triumph, it has failed to attract crowds.

Traders nearby today said they would be disappointed to see it go.

Lewis Masterson, general manager of Lothian Road pub All Bar One, said: “For the Andy Murray final, the whole square was packed, every single inch of it. We got an uplift from those sorts of events, which was nice. But it’s a bit of a shame – it’s never been that busy.”

Darren Pilley, manager of nearby bar Shakespeare’s, said: “It’d be detrimental to us if it was moved, but to be honest it doesn’t come as a surprise.

“If you think of the 365 days a year that it runs from morning, noon and night, it must cost an absolute fortune It’s been a bit of a white elephant from their point of view, but from my point of view it’s been great.”

Moving the screen to a busier location has been suggested before but as it would cost about £90,000 it is likely to be ditched altogether. A final decision will be made at next Tuesday’s culture and sport committee meeting.

A BBC spokesman: “The partnership is coming to an end and the BBC is having to make significant savings across all divisions due to the frozen licence fee.”