IT began in a Portacabin. In January. Freezing and damp and with little equipment the handful of people who managed to squeeze inside were there to make television. To make local television for local people.
Fast forward a few months and the staff of Edinburgh L!VE were now in a purpose-built studio in the south stand of Easter Road. Thousands had been spent on cameras, editing suites, a transmission room, a studio with blue screen, more people had been hired in editorial and advertising. The build-up to the launch was stressful and exhilarating and the turnout to the party at The Dome was huge. People were genuinely interested in what a local television channel was, and what it could do for them and the city. Especially as the majority of TV media was, and still is, based in Glasgow.
Sadly it didn’t last. I was there for a year – the whole thing folded after just two when Trinity Mirror, which had made the investment, pulled the plug.
It wasn’t surprising it never really took hold though. For a start you needed cable TV and Telewest (remember them?) were still digging up the city’s pavements to install the “latest” in media technological breakthroughs. It didn’t appear on a Sky channel. There was no such thing as Freeview or web channels and YouTube. For this I am very grateful.
That was in 1997. How things have changed. This week saw the launch of STV Edinburgh, a local channel for local people. It has the might of an established TV company behind it and it has invested, with 30 people working on producing the evening’s output. And it can be viewed through a variety of different mediums.
Having had a tour of the studio, meeting the channel’s boss and its presenters, I watched on Monday hoping to see how local TV could be done.
Some things haven’t changed. It wasn’t great. In fact, it wasn’t that far removed from L!VE’s output when it first started. All the trailers and inserts (filmed and edited in advance) looked great. But the outside broadcast was distinctly ropey, the fireworks were a damp squib, and there was a distinct lack of atmosphere in the Sheep’s Heid. All it was missing was Councillor Keith Geddes and it could have been 17 years ago.
But it’s early days and the enthusiasm of the team could well end up being matched by the quality of the output in a few months’ time.
I hope it succeeds where L!VE failed. Edinburgh has so much going on culturally, politically, through sport, through business, through its people, that it should be able to sustain its own TV station. For instance, you might like cookery shows, but what could be better than watching an Edinburgh chef whip up something on your screen rather than Rick Stein or James Martin – and know you could actually go to their restaurant and try it? Or hear a local band play and be able to book tickets for their next gig?
And of course, it could be good news for us on the Evening News. After all, just like in the L!VE days, it will be the agenda-setting stories published here first which will give the sofa presenters something to chat about in the evening.
One thing that is missing so far from STV Edinburgh is a mascot. We had the McBunny, a costume generally worn by some poor work experience student, who would add a certain je ne sais quoi to some of the new proceedings.
I’ll never forget William Hague’s face when McBunny interrupted the launch of the latest Tory advertising campaign right outside the studios.
Perhaps local TV is too cool for such antics. Perhaps not. I’ll certainly be watching.
Safety first for cyclists in city
THE decision to approve a 20mph limit on the majority of the city’s roads has, unsurprisingly, been met with some fury by drivers who don’t want to “crawl” to their destinations.
Main arterial routes such as Ferry Road, Queensferry Road, Dalkeith Road and the West Approach Road will still have a 30mph limit, but in the city centre – and many side streets in the ‘burbs – it will be 20 that’s plenty.
However, while those who rage about the idea that safety is behind the decision – suggesting that pedestrians should be made more aware of the rules of the road – it is cyclists and their safety which takes precedence here.
The cycling lobby has become increasingly powerful in Edinburgh. And with every death their voices grow stronger.
Given the number who have been killed in recent years, any move to reduce the number of people dying because they cycle must surely be a good thing.
High risks in the mountains
NEXT month will see the 12th Edinburgh Mountain Film Festival, where those with a love of the great outdoors and bagging Munros – or heights even higher – congregate to talk of their derring-do and watch the adventures of others even more daring than themselves.
This year the theme is “what is possible?”, and there will be many tales of human endeavour being pushed to the limits: from apparently unclimbable rock faces to surviving temperatures of -47C and overcoming life-changing injuries.
One Scottish mountaineer who sadly discovered that not everything is possible is Neil Mackenzie, who completed a PhD at the Roslin Institute. He died at the weekend after falling 2000ft from Mount Joffre in British Columbia, Canada. His body – with those of two others – was discovered in a crevasse on Monday.
He will be mourned by his family, friends, colleagues and the mountaineering community. A reminder of just how dangerous taking on nature can be.
‘Iconic’ plan just a mall
THE new plans for the St James Quarter have been revealed. And . . . it looks like a shopping mall. For some reason I always expect something more when these “iconic” developments are designed. But at least it looks better than the current mess.