A new regional media hub

by | Apr 26, 2019 | Election

Today I’ve launched my idea to invest in a new media hub for the region.

The concept behind the hub, which I’ve dubbed Great North Media, would be to increase news, debate and culture, but also to provide and move beyond pure content to encourage tourism and participation.

I’ve already had discussions on the idea with vloggers, podcasters, actors and directors, magazine editors and former newspaper executives.

Regional media is under great pressure – less original content, no space for news and no meaningful debate. That’s the same across newspapers, radio and TV. All are squeezed by the spread of new online channels but it’s the North East that suffers.

With less investment in content, our region doesn’t create the training ground for new talent, whether that’s the next Cheryl or the next sound engineer. While at the same time, there’s a boom in citizen journalism, video and blogs.

My concept is to fund an online platform to allow for video, print and radio. With my background in technology and journalism – I co-founded the regional tech forum Dynamo and a successful software company, and worked on national newspapers – I’d be willing and able to work with both tech and media sectors.

One of the problems with being an outpost of a national media firm, is that the cost structures are wrong. We need a media station that is headquartered in the region, not paying for a head office overhead elsewhere.

The bid for Great North Media will look to fund a beacon project that can be replicated in other regions too – working with regional and national teams at the BBC, ITN, Arts Council England, Innovate UK, National Trust and English Heritage – as well as local universities.

I’ll look beyond these ‘traditional’ UK partners and pitch new entrants such as Netflix, Amazon, Facebook and YouTube, where I have senior contacts after my years in the tech sector.

The idea is that they will come to North of Tyne to invest in and explore new ways to develop regional audiences.

The North East is a perfect region for acting as a testbed for new products. The idea of Great North Media Hub has roots in new media models being developed in Holland, Australia and the US – where operators are reaching smaller audiences with deeper content and debate.

If we are to build the region and take back control from an over-centralised London bureaucracy, we must develop the dialogue between the different and diverse communities in our region.

National media doesn’t cater well for rural Northumberland, but that’s where we have emerging stories in business but also the challenges of lifestyle change. The brilliant new £18m distillery for Wooler is a great example – what a great story, but what poor coverage it’s had.

It’s not just news though – we’d look at drama and performance. Wouldn’t it be great to have somewhere for the next Ant and Decs to learn their trade then showcase their talent. So Great North Media would have the capability to train people and then have the channels or platforms to shine the spotlight on them.

There are all sorts of opportunities. Could we look to develop a toolkit for all the arts venues in the region? And then could we link hotels and restaurants to create an all-encompassing, pro-active digital What’s On guide, a one-stop portal like Hull developed for their year as City of Culture.

I’ve been talking to Time Out founder Tony Elliott about this and received plenty of encouragement. If elected, I’d look to pull together a working group of industry leaders and experts to fully understand the opportunities and challenges. I’d also look to identify regional or national funds to pour into the Great North Media pot.

I’d love to know what you think of this idea, so please let me know by emailing votehoult@gmail.com or Tweet me.