Bid for new giant TV screen on Festival Square

The screen has been used sparingly since the London Olympics. Picture: Scott Louden
The screen has been used sparingly since the London Olympics. Picture: Scott Louden
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THE company responsible for Edinburgh’s giant TV wants to take it down and replace it with a new £500,000 modern, slimline version showing big sporting events, national occasions and Festival previews.

The screen in Festival Square was installed for the London 2012 Olympics but has not been used as much as planned and a recent bid to swivel the screen and show full motion advertisements was turned down by planners amid fears they could distract drivers and cause accidents.

But now London-based SIS Digital, which took over operation of the screen under a lease deal with the city council, is proposing a new initiative.

Patrick Noone, director of the company, said: “What we are going to do is have a competition to design a structure that will go into Festival Square with a double-sided digital screen in place of the current one.

“It will be a back-to-back screen built into an architecturally designed feature, which fits into the World Heritage site. The square has suffered from a lack of investment and looked boring and empty for many years.”

He said the plan included having static digital advertising on the screen.

“A proportion of the revenue generated from advertising would go to the council.”

Mr Noone said SIS Digital was in talks with Edinburgh College of Art about the design competition it hoped to run among its students, with a bursary of up to £15,000 as the prize for the winning entry.

The competition is expected to be launched within the next four weeks. He said the winning design would have to be attractive, practical and sustainable.

Mr Noone said the plan was to show big sporting events and special occasions but also allow the screen to be used for previews of Festival and Fringe shows. The rest of the time it would show static digital advertising between 7.30am and 10pm. The council turned down SIS Digital’s application in June to re-angle the screen by three metres to face oncoming traffic because they feared it could lead to crashes.

Mr Noone said: “We will put the screen on gearing system so we can turn it into the square when there’s a screening and then have it perpendicular to the road the rest of the time.”

Steve Cardownie, the council’s festival and events champion, said he saw a lot of potential in the proposal. He said: “Handled properly, it could be a welcome addition to what is of 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, City Centre Tory councillor Joanna Mowat said she had never been a fan of the giant TV. She said: “I think it detracts from the area. We’ve had it for about four years and only Andy Murray’s Wimbledon win really saw crowds watching it.”