The Detail to provide local news boost for Northern Ireland
Resource type: News
The Guardian | [ View Original Source (opens in new window) ]
Jeremy Hunt’s push for new local TV and online services received a boost today, with the announcement that Bob Geldof‘s media company Ten Alps is launching The Detail, a Belfast-based news and current affairs website.
Trevor Birney, managing director of Belfast-based independent producer Below the Radar, is to be head of The Detail. Below the Radar is owned by Ten Alps, the TV and digital production company campaigned unsuccessfully last year for an independently funded local news pilot to be run in Northern Ireland.
Birney said Atlantic Philanthropies provided £600,000, with Northern Ireland Screen providing the balance. Atlantic Philanthropies is a US charitable organisation businessman founded by Charles “Chuck” Feeney, who made his fortune in duty free shops. The foundation, set up in 1982, assisted in the creation of the Huffington Post, but this is its first foray into Northern Ireland journalism, Birney said.
Below the Radar will contribute its office and other expertise such as editing but is still hopeful of further aid.
The aim is to create a website for video, audio and text stories.
Birney said that he was advertising immediately for five full-time experienced journalists, with the emphasis on their being able to deliver “top-notch copy” rather than being multimedia experts. He added that he would also commission freelance journalists.
As the former award-winning editor of UTV’s current affairs programme, Insight, Birney said the fourth estate had suffered in Northern Ireland just like everywhere else but with a mandatory coalition government in Stormont and the current upswing in sectarian violence, the region “needed strong journalism”.
Northern Ireland had also suffered from a scaling back of television current affairs by the main broadcasters, he added.
During the Labour government’s now defunct effort to establish independently financed news consortiums around the UK, Below the Radar talked to possible partners including the Belfast Telegraph and local radio stations.
Parent company Ten Alps, headed by chief executive Alex Connock, submitted a bid to run a consortium in north-east England, along similar lines, only to see the whole project – which depended on public money – abandoned by the new coalition government culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, after the general election in May.
Hunt is pursuing an alternative strategy of seeking to establish a new generation of local TV and web news services across the UK.
Birney said he hoped that when other media picked up stories they would credit The Detail, to build its profile but the marketing plan, which included building partnerships with other news organisations, expected eventually to receive fees. The site will not carry adverts to begin with.
The Detail is an Atlantic grantee.
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