IT was with a sense of pride that I took on the role of Managing Director and Chief Executive of Channel Television and its group of associate companies on August 1 this year
Some traditions take ages to establish, but twenty-five years is a mere flicker of eternity’s eyelid. Yet in that time Channel has become more than a local tradition; it has become part of the very fabric of Channel Islands life.
It is with a sense of great responsibility that I take on the task. Responsibility to the shareholders and staff certainly, but also to everyone who ever switches on and tunes in to Channel Report or any other programme.
Those who have worked at the station over the years have achieved a great deal. From the faltering, heart-fluttering early days to the present, when Channel’s programmes may be seen by millions across the whole ITV network. There have been changes, but ever constant has been the spirit of the station, born of the passion in those whose skills and sweat have made Channel what it is today.
Naturally most of the articles in this special souvenir publication have been nostalgic. It’s fun to look back and remember the good old days and conveniently to forget the bad, but in this closing piece I’d prefer to look forward.
What will the future hold for broadcasting in general and Channel in particular? As Major Riley, our Chairman remarked to shareholders last year, new technology does not extend to our crystal ball, but I am prepared to speculate.
In two years time, the much talked about DBS (Direct Broadcast by Satellite) will have become a reality. Gone will be the need for huge, three-metre dishes. Instead a seventy centimetre ‘soup plate’ is all that will be required to receive pictures from tiny communications relays in orbit around the Earth.
Soon the equator will be ringed by a necklace of satellites with hundreds of invisible beams criss-crossing as signals are bounced up from one point on the globe and down to many more. The cosmic highway of communications will be open and the traffic will surge forward.
On the ground, fibre-optics will help move signals around quickly and efficiently, particularly in high density population areas like major cities, and before another quarter century is past, high definition television will be with us. Flat screens, hung on the wall like a painting or photograph will provide picture quality so good that make-up artists will have to learn new skills in hiding TV personalities’ blemishes!
I think there’s even a good chance that Channel 5, a new British terrestrial broadcasting system, may come about. The BBC will be much more commercial in its approach to programme making, although I doubt it will be carrying commercial breaks in the way ITV does. Sponsored television will come out of the closet, at first in order to support those elements of public service broadcasting which can’t be sustained in the traditional way, but later full sponsorship across a wide range of programming will be accepted.
Finally, unless the Independent Broadcasting Authority and, to a lessor extent, the Governors of the BBC can convince the Government that the broadcasting industry is a sensitive and even fragile thing, standards of programming will decline. It would be a tragedy if the fine traditions of broadcasting in Britain were crippled by well-meaning, but misunderstanding politicians, intent on change for the sake of change.
But what of Channel Television in this technologically bright, but otherwise occluded future? Well, I feel optimistic, even confident about the years ahead.
It’s for sure that the Channel Islands’ own television station will never receive its ‘licence to print money’, but I hope and believe it will remain efficient enough to go on serving the communities of Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark and any other islands which may from time to time be inhabited.
Whilst satellites open up the cosmic highway, I firmly believe someone has to keep open the local highways and byways, because people living in Guernsey will always be more interested in events in St Peter Port than news from some far flung part of the globe. Similarly Jersey men and women will not become less interested in St Helier just because they can tune in to Sri Lanka.
In short, local, regional or better still community television has a developing role to play in the brave new world of broadcasting alongside all the other advances. And whilst Channel Television is around, clinging on tenaciously through the roller-coaster ride of constantly changing fortune, the Channel Islands may be assured of the best possible service at all times.