Channelling Energy to Show That Community Matters to Viewers; Channel 9 - Northern Ireland's Only Local TV Station - Has Just Been Granted a Licence by the Independent Television Commission to Continue Broadcasting from Londonderry for Another Four Years. IAN STARRETT Went Behind the Cameras to Report on the Phenomenal Success of the Waterside Broadcasting Team
Byline: IAN STARRETT
EVERYWHERE you go now in the North West people are watching Channel 9.
Those who appear daily on the screen - people like Jimmy Cadden, Stuarty Mac, Teresa Craig and Nicola Thompson - have become household names across County Londonderry, North Antrim and deep into Donegal.
The BBC and UTV can undoubtedly prove that they have the great overall mass of viewers across the Province but the impact that Channel 9 has made on viewer habits in Ulster's North West corner is considerable.
In the early days, of course, when they were based at Duncreggan, there was the occasional shaky camera shot, the inevitable scenery that moved and the fluffed lines but, gradually, the pioneering team got it right and they've proved so efficient at what they do that they have just beaten off strong competition from another bidder and have won the ITC's approval to beam out programmes for another four years, at least.
Gary Porter, station manager, said: "The local nature and character of Channel 9's service are realised through the production and broadcast of quality in-house, local programming streams including local news, local sport, local current affairs, local interest programmes, local interactive music programming and a pioneering local Infochannel service.
"Local programming represents over 70 per cent of the content that we broadcast. Channel 9 is a free-to-air local television service dedicated to exploring and promoting the political, economic, cultural and human interests of viewers within our broadcast area.
"To ensure that local original programming is exposed to the largest available potential audience, it is always scheduled at peak times."
Gary certainly knows his audience. He points out: "Channel 9 also produces programmes that are particularly attractive to certain niche audiences. There is a substantial population of young adults in our locality - 55 per cent of the population living in our broadcast area is under 34 years of age compared to a UK average of 45 per cent. The later programmes aim to cater for the particular needs, tastes and interests of these viewers."
Gary Porter also recognises the great importance of news, with 45-minute teatime and 9pm bulletins.
He said: "At regional television level, audiences value news above all other programme genres. They are also interested in regional current affairs, sports and history programmes. There is evidence that viewers would prefer more local news.
"Channel 9 believes that substantial audiences exist for truly local news, current affairs and sports programmes. The withdrawal of regional television providers from arts and community programming provides Channel 9 with an opportunity to satisfy the demand that exists for these programme genres with arts and community programmes of a truly local nature. …