Giant TV turned off for good at Festival Square

Festival Square's big screen TV is dismantled. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Festival Square's big screen TV is dismantled. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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The unloved giant TV screen on Festival Square is being dismantled for good, with council workers seen taking apart the Capital’s answer to New York’s Times Square “jumbotron”.

Council officials have not apologised for the interruption to the broadcast, saying the technology in the big screen was out of date – despite it being installed just six years ago.

The giant screen will be dismantled over the next few days, with some parts sold for scrap and the remaining components recycled.

The TV’s demise ends three years of puzzling over what exactly should be done with the unlikely Edinburgh landmark.

Installed in 2009 so that crowds could watch major sporting events such as Andy Murray’s triumph at Wimbledon and Team GB picking up gold at the London Olympics, council officials have struggled to find a use for the screen that draws in a big enough crowd to justify the expense.

While the technology was gifted by the BBC, annual running costs of £26,000 fell to the council, with little opportunity to recoup the expense.

The BBC pulled the plug on a partnership that allowed events to be screened for free in 2013, prompting the first bids to have the screen taken down – just four years after it was erected. Hopes to move the screen to a busier location were dashed when they were costed at £90,000.

The licence to operate the screen at Festival Square expired at the turn of the year, meaning the jumbotron’s days were always numbered. Developers involved in building a new block of flats on the southern edge of the square had applied for a stay of execution, offering to move the screen and make it viable, but that proposal will not now go ahead.

In August, the contractor that operates the big screen for the council, SIS Digital, said it was keen to replace it with a £500,000 double-sided revolving digital display, promising to put money back into council coffers through a share of advertising revenue.

Former city festivals champion Steve Cardownie was quoted in support of the scheme, saying: “Handled properly, it could be a welcome addition to what is on offer on Lothian Road.

“A lot of major cities have these big screens and they are well received by the public. If a private company wants to take over the screen and run it at no cost to the council then that is worth exploring.” However, a lack of interest meant the revolution would not be televised.

The removal should be complete by the weekend, officials told the Evening News.

A council spokeswoman said: “The screen was installed in Festival Square to televise large-scale events like the Olympic Games and Wimbledon in a public space. The technological system is no longer operable and the company which produced the system no longer produces the components to enable repairs or renewal. It is being removed by contractors appointed by the council this week.”

paris.gourtsoyannis@edinburghnews.com