In My Opinion: Paul Hughes: Looking ahead to the launch of STV Glasgow

IF social media is anything to go by, then the public’s expectation of the new STV Glasgow channel – being launched next week – is that it will be back-to-back episodes of Take the High Road and Taggart. Nothing could be further from the truth.

At 6.30pm on Monday, Scotland’s newest channel opens with our flagship programme – The Riverside Show.

It’s a live, magazine programme and, editorially, it will focus unabashed on life in Glasgow and the surrounding area.

We’re clear that the real opportunity for the channel is to provide programming about Glasgow you can’t get elsewhere.

The Riverside Show will be informal, conversational and genuinely interactive with audiences.

One of the great benefits of making TV for a local audience is you can talk about the environment outside the viewers’ front door, without excluding a proportion of the audience. We also know from research that consumers in Glasgow think the city is unfairly represented in general across the media. That’s not to say there aren’t already champions for the city in the media; simply, that there’s an opportunity to produce television that, alongside a solid news offering, also regularly reflects the elements of life in Glasgow that makes it a great place to live.

This is a theme that stretches out beyond The Riverside Show into feature programming. My Life in Ten Pictures is a series of half-hour profiles where notable Glaswegians tell us their life stories through pictures from their personal photo albums. The first run includes leading Glaswegians from the worlds of business, politics, sports and culture. On the opening night, we have a profile of Lord Willie Haughey, a man who is known well across the city but seldom receives the attentions of TV in a way that is commensurate with his achievements.

A common question has been, ‘Are you doing anything for local arts and music?’ The answer is yes. We ‘dipped out collective toes in the water’ by posting a tweet some months ago asking if any local bands had videos they’d like to see on the channel. My expectation was that if we received a half dozen music videos of broadcast standard it would be a step in the right direction. 24 hours after posting, we had around 150 high-quality videos. It quickly became obvious that there is a huge swathe of local musical talent that currently has no representation on TV. So much so, that we have commissioned a series specifically for local acts: Glas-Roots Music.

We also have a commitment to foreign-language programming. At a time when the most spoken language in our schools after English is Polish, the channel will have the UK premiere of one of Poland’s most successful drama series, Czas Honoru (Days of Honour). It tells the story of a group of resistance fighters in Nazi-occupied Warsaw and it’s very good. The reaction amongst Glasgow’s Polish community is one of pleasant surprise while the Polish national media are currently making much of the fact their beloved drama is showing on TV in Scotland. While it’s subtitled, I expect – with the recent success of foreign-language hits such as Borgen, The Killing and The Bridge – we’ll have more English speakers than Polish speakers tuning in.

So, what about Take the High Road and Taggart? Well, of course we’ll have them. What broadcaster wouldn’t? Research showed that there was a 50-50 split amongst viewers on Take the High Road and given that it’s hard to get 50 per cent of any group to be positive about any programme, it’s getting re-run from episode one in a tea time slot just before the news.

Likewise, Taggart, Rebus and Doctor Finlay will appear once a week for one hour in our ‘Classic Drama’ slot.

So, while we’re proud to have these STV favourites on the channel and we think they’ll do well, in a schedule that runs 12 noon to 12 midnight, seven days a week, they by no means define our output.

No matter how good the programming is at launch I’m sure we’ll receive mixed reviews but that’s to be expected when you launch a channel. There are no Kids from Fame moments where we instantly achieve our goals and end the day dancing on the canteen tables.

The reality is it will be a long slog to achieve our goals. STV as a company is supportive and committed to the channel and the first schedule has been well received both internally and externally, particularly with local advertisers. It’s a deeply encouraging start.

Hopefully, you’ll join us to see if you agree.

Paul Hughes is channel editor of STV Glasgow. STV Glasgow will be available on Freeview channel 23, Sky channel 117 and Virgin channel 159.